Microsoft Dynamics 365 (D365) is used by many commercial organisations as their central CRM platform, and more charities and not for profits (NFPs) have been selecting it as their CRM software of choice. While there are also many bespoke charity CRM solutions on the market, there are several reasons why more charities are moving towards large-scale CRM platforms typically used by for-profit organisations. This article will look at the reasons why D365 is becoming more popular in the non-profit and membership sectors.
Please note this article originally appeared on MSDynamicsWorld.
Progressive platform and roadmap
One of the key drivers that is moving non-profits towards D365 is the fact that it enjoys continual updates and improvements. Some charities have been stung in the past by adopting a niche solution and finding that it doesn't have regular updates or investment. Modern technology is rapidly improving, and being stuck on a slow-progressing platform means increased risk of lagging behind the modern standards that others are taking advantage of. This problem could result in a lack of aesthetic updates to the interface and user experience. Or, it could result in a failure to add capabilities that improve a business process.
Staying within the Microsoft stack
Many organisations are already using Office 365, especially charities, who benefit from greatly discounted licensing or even free versions. One of D365's greatest strength is its native integrations with the Office 365 applications that are already embedded into organisations such as Outlook and the Office suite. What's even better is that D365 is based on the same Microsoft user interface, which makes it more familiar to staff and easier to adopt.
A few of the benefits of the stack that charities find valuable are:
- D365 can be integrated with SharePoint to provide improved storage options, allowing charities to use SharePoint's storage capacity, which is much more cost effective and allows for better document management.
- Outlook also includes D365 add-ons, so that staff can keep track of all their emails within their CRM and access CRM data directly within Outlook, avoiding the need to switch between applications.
- For improved identity management and user experience, D365 provides single-sign on (SSO) making it simpler to allow users to move between Microsoft applications.
Integrate with third party solutions
As well as integrating with your Microsoft applications, D365 can integrate with many third-party applications. This means that your staff can keep using the applications that they are familiar with, while still ensuring all data can be centrally recorded and reported for better insights. For example, you can integrate with Eventbrite for your event management, or your website to automate repetitive tasks.
Integrating data improves efficiencies, supporter engagement, and insights. These third-party solutions can also offer add-ons and connectors to enhance CRM functionality such as those available on AppSource or even charity CRM accelerators. Pre-built solutions give you more out-of-the-box non-profit functionality to reduce upfront implementation and development costs.
Reporting and 360-degree view of supporters
D365 allows charities to build up a '360-degree view' of their supporters. This is where all interactions, activities, and contacts are recorded so that you get a complete picture of how people interact with your charity or membership organisation. This data can be everything from the very first email that a supporter opened to the last donation or renewal that they made.
As data can be pulled in from across various systems and centralised in D365, you can build up a comprehensive picture of individuals or groups to provide greater insights. For example, Marketing can report on campaigns and gain a view into which one performed the best in measurable ways like linking campaigns to donations, or campaigns to membership sign-ups. Gaining this knowledge then makes budgeting and planning for the next year much easier, allowing resource focus and optimisation of sparse marketing budgets.
Reporting is also a key strength of D365 and one of the most popular reasons organisations (of any sector) choose to use it. When organisations first look at D365 in action, it can completely change their opinion on reporting and how simple it can be. What previously took hours or days can be setup once and then simply refreshed or run via one click. This is thanks to its simple integration with Excel and Power BI as well as the powerful built-in Advanced Find functionality, which allows any user to quickly create views and reports that can be shared across the organisation.
D365 is a widely-used CRM solution with a very large user base - not just within the non-profit sector. Organisations can take part in knowledge sharing with other companies, go to events, conferences and workshops, access a wealth of free training materials and easily find blogs, articles or how-tos. This helps reduce reliance on paid training, makes it much quicker to get answers to basic questions, helps you to become part of a large community, and means that you never have to be fearful of being tied to one partner or supplier.
By contrast, when some bespoke solutions are not widely adopted, finding a CRM partner can be very limiting. With D365, there are many organisations that can help you, making your position more flexible and giving you peace of mind that if there are ever any issues with your CRM partner, then you do not have to change systems.
Make it your own
While using charity accelerators will give you a lot of the functionality that you need, no two non-profits will operate in the exact same way. Luckily, Dynamics 365 can be completely customised so that you can make it fit the way you work, rather than you having to fit to how the system works. This could be completing process customisations or even just simply renaming fields to fit with the terminology and language that you use.
As well as customising the platform with custom development, D365 (and Microsoft overall) really focus on giving power to the users. End users can customise their own dashboards, views and reports so that the system works for them. What's even better, is that the ability to do this doesn't rely on any coding or specialist knowledge - thanks to the wealth of free training (as mentioned previously), you can simply follow how-to instructions and do this yourself.
Not for profits and memberships, whatever their mission, will want to increase their reach, gain more supporters, and grow. Having a system that you know will be able to grow with you is important - you do not want to find success and growth and discover that your system cannot keep up. This could be growth in terms of the number of employees accessing your CRM, the number of supporters or members that you hold in your system (which is sometimes how CRM systems are costed) or even the capabilities of the system itself.
D365 can be used by organisations ranging from small up to the largest. What's more, it's flexible, so while it is costed based on users per month, it could be that volunteers only need to perform simple data entry, which might be achievable through a custom data entry screen that feeds into CRM without requiring a licence. Or, if storage increases, SharePoint can be used to reduce storage costs. The benefit here is that if in the future you think "I wonder if this will be possible in Dynamics 365…" then it likely is!
Security, compliance and GDPR
Charities are often under the spotlight for security and compliance reasons, and recently, data breaches among charities have doubled in the UK. All Microsoft solutions are GDPR compliant at a platform level, as well as providing the tools to help organisations using D365 to operate with secure processes and be GDPR compliant themselves. Tools and features such as data retention policies, consent management tracking, communication preference management, security roles and permissions give peace of mind that you're using a solution that has the backing and investment of a large corporation with their reputation relying on the security of their systems.
Finally, charities receive about a 70 percent discount on their CRM licensing for all their licenses with Microsoft. This attractive discount makes it much more attainable for non-profits and means that you can have the same software and benefits as a commercial organisation at a fraction of the cost. Another strength is the clear licensing and pricing. The cost is the same per user per month (all with the discount applied) and various licensing levels are provided so each member of staff can have the most suitable level that they need - only paying for what you require.
A key strength over Salesforce (the other major commercial platform) is this clear pricing, as Salesforce is known in the industry to have hidden and unclear costs, which means the CRM project licensing costs can escalate. Different functionality in Salesforce can also come at an extra cost, and this is often unclear, so adding something later down your CRM roadmap can dramatically increase your licensing.
Choosing a new CRM platform is a big decision, so you should carefully evaluate your options as each platform will have its strengths and weaknesses. While each charity or membership body will have some common core requirements, there will be bespoke needs and different priorities on requirements, so your CRM selection process will be unique to you. D365 certainly has many compelling benefits, which is why the sector is seeing an uptake in D365 adoption – and we expect this will continue.
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