Do you have spreadsheet fatigue?

Are you juggling disconnected donor information across multiple spreadsheets? Tired of trying to remember which spreadsheet includes your most recent interaction, which spreadsheet includes prospect research, and which spreadsheet includes an upcoming solicitation strategy? The best solution to this common problem is to switch from tracking this information in spreadsheets to optimize reporting from—or within—your CRM (customer relationship management) software.

I understand—it can feel onerous to enter information into a CRM, create a report, and then export data from the CRM into a spreadsheet rather than just update your existing spreadsheet. But there are valuable benefits to tracking donor information in your CRM rather than spreadsheets, including:

1) A CRM serves as a vault of organizational knowledge for years to come

One study found that the average tenure of a fundraiser is 16 months. To continue a seamless relationship with donors during staff transitions, it is vital that all donor interactions, research, and notes are recorded in the CRM rather than peppered throughout various spreadsheets and documents.

2) Managing data in your CRM provides access to insights in real-time

Rather than searching for the most recent version of a spreadsheet on your desktop or shared drive, a CRM allows you to get up-to-date data from the source. You can even create dashboards to ensure key data points are always at your fingertips—for example, gifts from prospects in your portfolio or donor interactions to date.

3) Spreadsheets are more susceptible to errors

Especially if your organization collaboratively edits shared spreadsheets, there is a much greater chance that the contents of a cell are mistakenly deleted or changed compared to a mistake happening in your CRM. In addition, working in a CRM greatly minimizes the risk of mistakenly overwriting important past information, such as a column for “most recent interactions.”

4) A CRM ensures you stay on top of follow-up tasks and outreach

While next steps can get buried in a spreadsheet, keeping track of follow-up actions in your CRM provides you with many options to review your to-do list, whether it is in a dashboard or notifications that remind you of what tasks are coming up and what might be overdue.

Transitioning from Spreadsheets to Your Donor Database

Would you like to start making the switch from spreadsheets to your CRM? Some simple first steps include:

  1. Look at each piece of information you keep in your spreadsheet and see where it fits in your CRM. In tasks? Prospect status? Notes? An opportunity? Map out where each column will live.
  2. If not already in your CRM, upload or enter the information.
  3. Build out a dashboard to visualize information within your CRM.

OR

  1. Create a report to pull the data you would like to see.
  2. Copy and paste the data from that report into your original designed template.

Note: if you are stuck on one of the above steps, you may need to consult a database expert, either at your organization or externally, who can help ensure that your CRM is organized in a way to best serve you and your team.

Viola! You have an updated, accurate donor or prospect report to help you and your team review important information and create a strategy. While porting information to your CRM requires an investment of time, it will certainly be worth it.

CCS Fundraising is a strategic fundraising consulting firm that partners with nonprofits for transformational change. We plan and implement fundraising initiatives to help nonprofit organizations make a bigger impact, including Systems projects to help organizations use their CRMs to drive strategic fundraising activity. To learn more about our Systems work, contact Allison Willner, Vice President of Data Strategy, at systems@ccsfundraising.com.

About the Author

Elyse Adams is an Assistant Vice President at CCS Fundraising. Since 2016, Elyse has provided counsel to a diverse group of organizations across a variety of sectors, including City Harvest, The Trevor Project, Madison Square Boys & Girls Club in New York City, Brooklyn Public Library, and independent and boarding schools across the country. She has extensive experience managing capital campaigns and volunteer leaders, conducting planning studies, and working with nonprofits to reach and exceed their goals of increased donor engagement and extraordinary philanthropic support.