As more and more associations consider CRM systems to manage their member and donor information, it is important to understand how an implementation of this type can impact the organization. To stay organized and assure yourself of a good implementation, here are three challenges to be aware of, along with some insight into handling them properly.

1. Setting (and Managing) Expectations

If you were to ask your staff what they wanted from the new CRM system, they would say they want everything and they want it right now. While this is an ideal scenario, it’s not very realistic. We often recommend completing a CRM implementation in phases. This allows the association leaders to review and test the applications that have been installed and do a quick evaluation of how they are impacting member activity and information. It also helps to improve user adoption since staff members can slowly get used to a new way of doing their job. In addition, a phased approach also helps develop a reasonable delivery schedule so the entire project team is on the same page.

2. Battling Project Fatigue

When an implementation project is first kicked off, there is tremendous excitement and optimism throughout the project team and the organization. Unfortunately, this enthusiasm can fade over time. When this happens, bumps in the road can appear due to lack of response, missed deadlines and/or a general lack of leadership for the CRM project. To combat this, we recommend defining team roles ahead of time so there is accountability for the project. It’s also important to encourage the project team members so they know their hard work is appreciated and is important to the association and its members. Also, make sure to “celebrate the wins” when even a small milestone is accomplished. This gives the team a sense of pride and will help them re-dedicate themselves to the project.

3. Actively Managing Your CRM Partner

We highly recommend partnering with an organization that not only sells the CRM software but also implements it. This will limit the number of different vendors you are working with and will provide with “one neck to choke” should problems arise. Also, establishing a detailed project plan with your vendor at the outset will eliminate any confusion on project work or deadlines down the road. We also recommend regular, open communications with the project leaders from your vendor. This can happen through a weekly phone call or email that shows what progress has been made, what issues have arisen and what are the planned next steps. This helps avoid any surprises and improves collaboration among vendor and association leaders.

Moving to a new CRM system is a big decision for associations. We have helped hundreds of associations and nonprofit organizations transition to new business systems. Contact us today to schedule a complimentary business needs assessment and we’ll discuss what options may work for your organization.