When I’m asked what I do at the American Red Cross, I typically answer that I work on fundraising performance management and process development. This is the easy part. But when I try to explain my project in more detail often makes me feel like Chandler whose friends do not understand his profession. (I suppose this is quite common for knowledge workers of our time actually.) In this post, I will give it a go anyway, by starting to describe the concepts that I work on.
As mentioned, my work focuses on fundraising – or development, like it is commonly referred to here. I contribute to a customer relationship management (CRM) project. In the corporate world, CRM has been a buzzword for years, yet there is no standard definition for the concept. Wikipedia defines CRM as “a model for managing a company’s interactions with current and future customers, using technology to organize, automate, and synchronize sales, marketing, customer service, and technical support“. To sum up, the idea is to systematically gather information on customers to learn to know them better. Consequently, it becomes possible to serve them better, determine which customer relationships are truly profitable, and identify new sales opportunities. Also, with CRM, customer interactions can be managed more efficiently and professionally.
CRM seems to have started to gain traction also in the not-for-profit world. To me, this is not at all surprising, as in my mind fundraising is so similar to sales. The products and underlying motivation may be of a little different nature, but the targets, processes and dynamics are not. Quoting Stephen Goldstein: “It’s about making the perfect match between what you have to offer and what someone else wants.” Sales representatives and customers easily translate into fundraisers and donors, and offers and deals to donation requests and donations – or asks and gifts as they are called at the Red Cross.
My colleagues at the Development department have been working on the CRM project for more than a year already. This makes it exciting for me to step in as an outsider. My primary tasks are to lead an in-process assessment of the current CRM tool adoption and usage, evaluate related fundraising data capture and reporting processes, and support development of key standards and best practices, as well as identification of most value-adding future enhancements. Having been involved in deployment of new processes and IT systems in my previous workplaces, it has been striking to realize how similar the challenges are being tackled also in the not-for-profit context.
I will come back to the CRM tool and benefits expected from its fundraising functionality in the next post. In the meanwhile, the weather is gradually getting colder here in DC. Especially mornings are chilly, and it gets dark early in the evenings. Receiving a photo from a childhood friend who now lives in Joensuu in Eastern Finland put things into perspective, though. This is how it looked at her backyard last week, and at the Red Cross Square on the very same day.