Why an Event CRM Is Critical for Nonprofits


“You Can’t Manage What You Can’t Measure.”– Peter Drucker

Event CRM

I recently managed a major event for a national nonprofit that is comprised of national representation, eight regional divisions and 50 state leads. Previously, the national organization had donor software, but they didn’t really have a holistic customer relationship management (CRM) system.

That means they didn’t have complete historical information that would allow them to build relationships with supporters and promote the upcoming conference. Outside of registration, they didn’t have a good sense of what was going on at the event or how to follow up with people outside of email.

Because different information was stored in different places, there would be no way to know if a person was a speaker, an attendee, a volunteer, a donor, a referral source for other donors or part or all of those categories. All of this information is critical to cultivating relationships, which would basically go dormant after the event.

Missed Opportunities Due to a Missing Event CRM

When it comes to nonprofits, relationships are everything, and events represent the best platform to build those relationships. Sure, they chug along and do great work throughout the year, but events are prime opportunities for nonprofits to shine.

If the registration system, volunteer system, donor system and other systems aren’t talking to each other and the information is disjointed, how do you market the organization and the event to different groups? How do you acquire and upgrade donors? How do you keep supporters engaged?

According to a survey from the Case Foundation, 88 percent of nonprofits said their most important communication tools are email and their websites, while 97 percent are on Facebook. 74 percent use social media to promote events and share information about the organization’s activity. But how is this information being captured and measured? How are these efforts translating into donations or grant access?

Suppose you have a great conversation with someone during a conference. You find out they have great connections with organizations that can help you acquire grants or other funding. How do you continue this relationship if your only event data is buried in spreadsheets or event registration tools that are no longer accessible? Most nonprofits pay to use these tools during the event but turn them off because they can’t afford year-round use.

Event CRM to the Rescue!

Your event CRM is actually more than that because it’s a portion of the holistic, organizational CRM. That means it collects, analyzes and provides access to data from a variety of sources. This data can then be seamlessly shared across departments – operations, development, marketing, volunteers, event staff, the board of directors and more.

For example, if you use an event registration tool like EventBrite, you can wind down that system after the event as long as your EventBrite data is feeding into the event CRM. You don’t have to continue to pay for this service after the event because the data is already integrated with your centralized CRM.

When you turn off extra event tools after the event, you won’t lose the relationship data. You won’t lose the momentum you’ve gained during your event. Instead of digging up information from spreadsheets, email archives and other data silos, you can continue to engage supporters without missing a beat.

In addition to the relationship-building benefits, your CRM can help you operate more efficiently and make better decisions. After all, nonprofits know all too well that “nonprofit” is a tax status as much as anything else. You have to operate like a business so you can continue to get things done and support your mission. By analyzing CRM data, you can improve productivity, reduce waste, and identify new donors and grant opportunities.

An event can’t be a one-and-done situation for nonprofits. Each event is too important. Use a CRM to bring all of your data together, build relationships, save money, and continue the momentum from event to event.