Over the past few months, one of the most discussed topics on the Advancement listservs has to do with the changing landscape of Advancement CRMs (fundraising databases). Most of the discussion has come from vendors, who are eliminating or changing their base products.
This post will not discuss specific vendors or products. No doubt you already know what I am talking about simply because you are hearing from your current vendor. Rather, I want to focus on whether you need to change at all.
Just because a vendor comes out with a new or different version of what you are currently using does not mean you must go with it. If I am happy with a product, and it serves me well without me having to make accommodations or settle for poor efficiency, then I don’t change.
I do not “need” a new car every three to five years. In fact, I tend to drive them until my needs change. I hung onto my last car for 12 years. It had 250,000 miles on it and was replaced strictly because we had a child and needed a car that met all the latest safety requirements.
The replacement car is now seven years old and just hit 100,000 miles, and I see no reason to swap it out (even though all warranties have expired). In fact, the company no longer makes my model and hasn’t for three years, but that’s no reason to get a replacement!
It’s the same with fundraising databases. Contrary to what your vendor might tell you, and to dispel the myth propagated on the Internet, there is no “shelf life” for a CRM. This applies to products that are no longer under “warranty” or are no longer in production.
If your organization has stayed current with upgrades and releases to the product and underlying architecture, a replacement might not be necessary for 20 years (assuming it was first acquired in the 21stcentury).
The key to long life for a CRM is the same as a car: regular routine maintenance and little or no “off-market” modifications. What breaks a CRM faster than anything is not using it the way it was designed, not maintaining its interior (data), and adding features that it was not originally designed to accommodate.
Regular data tune-ups are mandatory. Those do NOT need to be done by the dealer. Shop around for the best offer, remembering to get at least three recommendations.
A bi-annual check-up by a professional is also advised. Get an independent external individual, who is current with best practices and processes and someone who can come in and kick the tires. Often a poor-performing CRM is not due to the CRM, but how you are using it.
If you make a minor investment in ongoing routine maintenance of your CRM, you will easily save your organization six-figures or more. While one day, a major investment could be required due to regulatory or “safety” concerns. Remember, just because you hear on the listservs that “everyone is doing it,” does not mean you need to follow!