What is a CRM?

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There are two identical acronyms in our business which mean entirely different things, so it is easy to get confused when they come up in conversation. CRM can stand for When is a CRM not a CRM

Customer Relationship Management


Constituent Relationship Management

A Customer Relationship Management system is a software database which keeps track of the history of a customer from the initial inquiry through to their entire history with the company. It can even help businesses track the visits to their website from potential clients and customers. You’ll know what pages were looked at, and it will alert you when a lead revisits your website. Any proposals, requests, or purchases become the lifecycle of that individual’s relationship with your company. Even if years pass between activities, that history is still there in the CRM. For a company with multiple or changing sales teams this can be a great benefit, since the client won’t have to feel as though they are starting over from square one.

A Constituent Relationship Management system is for organizations, particularly non-profits, to manage the members of their community. Donors, fundraisers, and volunteers have a very different set of needs and expectations from consumers and business clients. Consolidating data related to the multiple functions of non-profit organizations leads to both greater efficiency, and to the allocation of more time to do what is most important, which is raising funds and soliciting donations.

Customer Relationship Management systems can serve all businesses alike. Sales goals and profitability concerns are nonexclusive. Constituent Relationship Management, however, requires some level of customization. The organizations which need this type of CRM have very different demands. A non-profit is not the same as a university, or a professional institution; yet all three have a need for Constituent Relationship Management.

A perfect example of this is our client, the Council of Residential Specialists (CRS), which needed a platform that would be able to handle a multitude of members, provide online learning, enable e-commerce and conduct a geospatial search. The specific needs of CRS were unique. We built a lot of customization into their website, in order to give them all the functionality that they required.

We often turn to CiviCRM, an open source Constituent Relationship Management platform which integrates with Drupal and WordPress in a very elegant way, so that you can have your website and your back end CRM system synchronized. We find that to be a very robust solution, and it is very easy to use. Setting up your membership, and integrating various campaigns is not hard at all. What can be incredibly difficult is migrating vast quantities of data from your database, which is the heart and soul of your organization, into this new product. It doesn’t come easy, because different databases have unique functionalities. We have integration specialists to do that. Once that is done, though, organizations find Constituent Management systems very simple to use and maintain.

Being technology agnostic allows us to approach each client’s needs individually. There are mainframe solutions in Constituent Relationship Management which are worth considering, and we bring a lot of custom integration to these, also. ACGI, is one of the large mainframe CRM platforms which we can integrate to a website. This is a cloud-based association management system, which CommonPlaces has used successfully for clients in the past.

Integration is the key to both types of CRM.

  • A Customer Relationship Management system must integrate with your marketing system, tracing the path from contact to lead to customer. This integration gives you information on your Marketing ROI, and you know how many leads are converting to customers.
  • The Constituent Relationship Management system must synchronize with your organization’s website and the varieties of information on your database. This synchronization leads to a more structured institution with better communication for all parties.

Whichever CRM you need, focus on the integration and synchronization necessary to bring about success.


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