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CRMs: where to go to for free advice and support

Howard Lake | 15 January 2021 | Blogs

'i' for information blue sign underneath leaves.

Well-managed CRMs are at the heart of effective fundraising from individuals and organisations. But where can you go to if you need free and perhaps independent advice and support with using your existing CRM or perhaps help with choosing a new CRM?

1. CRM Vendor

The first port of contact if you need support is of course with your CRM vendor. A support contract should be part of any partnership between a charity and a CRM provider. This support might be direct with a staff member via phone, email or live-chat, but will also often consist of the option to explore a searchable knowledgebase of common issues and solutions. Sometimes this will be in the form of screencast videos, demonstrating how to achieve certain objectives or to use certain functions.

Some CRM vendors also run and support regional or topic-specific user groups, either online or at in-person events. They might also, like Blackbaud Europe and Salesforce, run annual conferences at which users can learn more about new features and best practices, and attend workshops or book one-to-one sessions with support staff.


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2. Discussion forums

Sometimes the issue faced isn’t necessarily specific to the CRM product, although the solution will need to be applied to the CRM. On these occasions a broader understanding of data, the law, or effective donor stewarding might be required. On these occasions some of the self-help forums on Facebook or LinkedIn can prove useful.
The only problem with these is that there can be too many to choose from, so here are a few that might be worth exploring. After joining a forum, it is best to hold back from immediately posting a query or request for help, no matter how urgent. First search the archives of the forum as there is a chance that the same or a very similar version of the question might have been posted before.

Fundraising Chat

Fundraising Chat Facebook group header
Image: Fundraising Chat

Fundraising Chat on Facebook is a good first port of call based on its large membership base, growing archive of discussions, and its very able volunteer administrators who keep everything on topic. Search for CRM discussions or search on a particular vendor and you’ll get a good sense of other charities’ experience of those issues or organisations, or you’ll get advice from other fundraisers on how to resolve an issue. 
Just yesterday one member responded to a CRM question by offering to host a live video session featuring a couple of speakers this morning. To be fair that is not the usual level of response, but it demonstrates the supportive and informed quality of much fo the content.

Fundraising Chat also has a sub-group focusing purely on GDPR, if your data question is along the lines of “can we do… with supporters’ data?”

Data in Fundraising

Data in Fundraising - Facebook group header
Image: Data in Fundraising group on Facebook

Data in Fundraising, with 941 members, is another useful resource on the broader issue of data, but plenty of discussions focus on CRMs.

3. DataKind

DataKind expanded from the US to set up a UK arm in 2013. The charity works “to understand the social sector’s needs and how we can harness the power of pro bono data scientists to support the sector”.
Since then they have run DataDive® and DataCorps® projects with more than 80 UK charities. They claim, quite reasonably, that they are now “the most experienced provider of charity data science support in the UK”.

They will be independent of CRM providers but have extensive experience of most CRM products in use by charities and many of the common challenges charities face in making the most effective use of data.


Making a Difference Through Analytics (MADTA) is another charity that provides charities with data support from commercial data practitioners from around the world. Founded by John Conway and Nandu Govindankutty, for the past 10 years they have worked exclusively with charities and non-profit organisations, “providing expertise to enable them to fund raise more effectively”.

John and Nandu say: “We treat fundraising and marketing as a science, and use innovation and analytics to improve results.”

MADTA’s consultancy services are free. Their corporate sector volunteers donate their time to MADTA, offering skills ranging from marketing, customer insight, brand management, HR and strategy.
In 10 years over 800 volunteers have helped over 75 charities and social enterprises, organised eight hackathons (two of which UK Fundraising has attended), delivered 45 events and seminars, and taken on more than 75 bespoke consultancy projects.

5. Dataviz

Using data from a CRM can sometimes be a challenge. A shareable dashboard will usually support internal distribution of reports, but sometimes reports need to be produced for external audiences or a different channel.

Dataviz is a US organisation that “delivers high-quality, low-cost visualisations that help organisations to quickly grasp their data, improve their work, and show their impact”. As well as its consultancy services it also publishes a free weekly 60-second data tip. This focuses on explaining different ways of presenting a charity’s data – or ways to avoid doing so misleadingly – or highlighting ways in which creativity and data skills can be combined effectively.

Dataviz blog posts
Recent Dataviz blog posts