Free CRM for small charities

I went to an event at NCVO for charities looking to get on the cloud recently.

There was a Q&A with staff from Salesforce, an incredibly powerful and relatively cheap Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform that maintains all your supporter relationships, automates lots of processes and lets you work from anywhere. One man asked what small charities like his were to do if they just didn’t have the money to pay a Salesforce consultant.

We spoke afterwards, and I told him he didn’t necessarily have to.

How small charities can do cloud CRM for free.

First, put all your supporters in a spreadsheet. Something basic, like this. Think about how you’d divide them up – funders, volunteers, corporate funders, organisations, etc.

1. Free email, calendar and documents (that never go down)

Sign up for Google Apps. This gives you and your team free document sharing and collaboration, calendar, intranet, and emails.

2. Free alternative to your expensive server

Sign up for Dropbox. This gives you and your team a way of sharing files with your team on your computer. Like your server, but accessible from anywhere, and free.

3. Free event management programme

Sign up for Eventbrite. This lets people sign up to your information days or any other events, for free. Once they’ve signed up, you move their name, email address, etc. into Mailchimp.

4. Free email newsletter programme and CRM

Sign up for Mailchimp, a fun way to keep in touch with supporters.

Then just import your supporters from that basic spreadsheet you did at the start.

5. Combine the tools

Import your supporters info from Eventbrite, update it in Mailchimp, and do the day to day stuff in Google Apps and Dropbox.

Now you have the ability to:

– send professional looking email newsletters to your supporters
– update your interactions with them on Mailchimp
– share application forms, information PDFs or any document with your supporters
– work from home, Starbucks, your phone or even abroad as easily as in the office

All for free.

You might have to switch between websites a bit (though they do all talk to each other), but this is more within the reach of small charities than finding thousands of pounds to pay for all-singing all-dancing solutions.

Let me know if you want help getting set up!

5 Responses to “Free CRM for small charities”

  1. Stuart Potter 10/16/2012 at 10:29 am #

    Thanks for this – great article… I’m just getting started with Mailchimp, and also Survey Monkey.

    Already using GoogleDocs and Dropbox for everything though.

    • CharityChap 10/24/2012 at 8:51 pm #

      Great stuff Stuart – it’s a brilliant combination of tools, isn’t it?

  2. Angel Cruz 12/28/2012 at 7:53 pm #

    This is a great resource for people who are on a budget! thanks for sharing this. Great article

  3. John 03/13/2016 at 11:51 pm #

    I read this article with some dismay, as following the advice here will lead to you breaking the law.

    Under the Data Protection Act all organisations that store data must take appropriate measures to guard that data against criminal acts theft. A laptop with data copied around by Dropbox could be stolen, leaving the charity liable for fines in the hundreds of thousands of pounds (Google “Data Protection Act Fine” if you’re not sure – BPAS was fined 200k, a police station 200k, a hospital 350k).

    Another way that Dropbox fails is by storing contact data on servers outside the EEC – another breach of the DPA.

    Spreadsheets in Dropbox can’t be edited concurrently – so data is at risk of being lost. Also, having Dropbox copy files around will work nightmares on your internet speed and laptop speed.

    A much better alternative is to recommend free to use cloud-based CRMs, of which there are hundreds, usually with payment over a certain number of contacts or for additional features. Alternatively, consider an open source alternative, of which there are hundreds, and which are entirely free to install, use, customise, modify and extend.

    I wish that more people who know the relevant legislation and what else is out there would contribute alternative articles 🙁

  4. John 03/13/2016 at 11:56 pm #

    Also, with a spreadsheet you don’t get any of the basic integration provided by even a rudimentary free CRM system. Good luck getting a spreadsheet to integrate with SurveyMonkey, MailChimp, Twitter & Facebook!

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