Make the right CRM choices pt 1

27 June 2017 by Charbel Abi-Maroun

It might sound like a sales pitch when a membership software provider writes or presents about choosing the best membership CRM provider & system for you, and sometimes it is. But not this time. It’s important that the supplier and membership organisation work closely together building on the right platform. 


According to research recently conducted by membership management solutions Hart Square, just under 40% of not-for-profit bodies surveyed said they had ‘limited success’ with their membership CRM implementation and that it had ‘failed to meet their expectations’. That’s disappointing.

Embarking on a good membership CRM implementation project carries a fair amount of risk:

  • You choose a membership system that, in reality, doesn’t do what you want/need it to do -
    53% surveyed said they weren’t sure (or would not) choose the same system again
  • The project overruns on time and, hence, money - 
    Many organisations surveyed revealed they had spent over £100,000
  • You choose a membership database provider that you struggle to build rapport with leading to a constant disconnect and lack of collaboration -
    I believe this is the real problem and tends to lead to the first two issues above

Looking at the above, it’s no surprise that over 36% of survey respondents have had their current CRM in place for 5-10 years. It’s not a project people or organisations want to take on too often!

But, read on, and over the next few weeks, to find out how you can make the whole experience better; better for you, your organisation and your members.

Tip #1 - Find a good membership CRM system that meets your needs, rather than fitting your needs into a system

Traditionally, membership organisations research what’s available and go from there in creating their technology requirements for a CRM membership system. But how about turning it on it’s head and asking yourself what you want and then finding the system that can do all that?

Conduct internal research to find out what works currently, what doesn’t and what people want to be able to do. Start with the benefits you want to achieve for members/staff and work backwards to how to achieve that with CRM for membership.

For example, say you want to send personalised emails to members depending on what subject areas they are interested in. So, your CRM membership solution needs to integrate with your chosen email marketing platform allowing you to tag contacts by multiple subject areas.

Plan what you want to do in the future. What does the next five years hold for the organisation? Understanding this will help your eventual CRM agency identify the best way to customise your member database software for the future. Even if you don’t want to do it all now…

Tip #2 - Identify the right CRM for membership system for your needs AND for the future

Once you have your list of what you need the CRM to do you can start to research systems to find the one(s) that can achieve all this. In addition to being able to do everything on your list you should make sure it is:


An open platform provides the framework to be configured and customised to your needs rather than you shaping your business to work the way the system does. Furthermore, an open system allows for a more flexible and robust support model as you’re not locked into a proprietary system with a single supplier. A healthy partner ecosystem will ensure that your system will be well supported and easily extended to keep pace with your needs.


It should be more than just a collection of rows and columns. It should be proactive, notifying you when things need to be done; help you make decisions based on past activity; and integrate with your other systems so all the data you need is in one place.


It should help you and your team to do your jobs better and more effectively. Can you assign tasks to people that pop up in their Outlook calendars? Can you customise the dashboard to suit you? Can you share information with colleagues easily?

Enable personalisation

Can it gather and store data from your other business systems or access that data in a logical way? Can it manage contact permissions, ensuring you are GDPR ready? Could you communicate different messages to your members depending on how you segment them? This is the real benefit of a GOOD MEMBERSHIP CRM system - the personalised service it allows you to provide to your members.


So, once you’ve identified what you need/want to do within your organisation and you’ve identified a top membership CRM system that can do all this and is future-proofed, it’s on to the next step.

Next time, I’ll go through identifying a suitable provider...