In a recent article by Kivi Leroux Miller, "You Might Need New Tech More than New Staff," she shares her research for an upcoming book and makes the assertion that, "organizations that are most successful at using content to engage their communities consider the combination of a good CRM (customer relationship management software), CMS (website content management system), email and e-commerce technology to be just as important to their success as having thoughtful and creative staff members who can write well." In our work developing content management platforms for nonprofits, we have found this to be true. Talent is definitely essential, but a strong, highly integrated platform from which you can manage communications and membership data will ensure that even a limited staff can reach their goals.
The technology mix you choose for your organization must enable you to connect your website, your email efforts, and your membership databases in order to keep records current and deliver the right messages to the right people. We have worked with several nonprofits who have integrated their Association Management System (AMS) with Drupal, an open source content management platform. This integration ensures the online database is in sync with membership databases and that information is always up to date. Our clients have reported saving hundreds of hours of staff time and collecting thousands of additional record updates just with this synchronization alone.
Drupal can be integrated into just about any application via API and we have seen it succesfully used as the platform for uniting the Magento eCommerce platform, the Marketo and Eloqua marketing automation platforms, and a host of AMS's and CRM's, including IMPAK, Blackbaud, Sugar and Salesforce. The beauty of having these integrations is that it not only saves your staff time in implementing campaigns and member outreach, but it makes life a lot easier for your members, volunteers and other online visitors. They no longer will have to log in to different platforms to take advantage of different services (we've had organizations who had separate platforms for events, eCommerce, and general information, for instance), and additionally they can keep their preferred contact information updated through their online profile - self-managed from one point on your site. If you haven't yet automated the manual tasks associated with the storing, recording and use of member information, take a long, hard look at the technology you have now and the technologies listed above. Organizations who have implemented and integrated CRM, CMS, eCommerce and email platforms are achieving the impossible nonprofit mandate to do much, much more, with less.