How to Choose Free and Low-Cost CRM for Non-Profits

How to Choose Free and Low-Cost CRM for Non-Profits
Ivan Pavlov
April 13, 2020
Last updated: April 10, 2020

Table of content

What’s Your Budget?

Understand the Features You Need

What Integrations Might You Use?

Free CRM Software Suites for NonProfits
  1. Bitrix24
  2. Nutshell
  3. Netsuite
  4. Salesforce

Adults in the United States contributed 8.8 billion volunteer hours to non-profits in 2017. Coordinating both volunteers and non-profit teams is hell. And if you’re relying on old technology (principly, pen and paper) to keep track, you’re eventually going to have a breakdown.

Papers will pile up, volunteers will get lost, and your team will lose confidence in you. What if there were a way to stay sane and organized at the same time. Too bad there isn’t an online tool tailored to helping non-profit teams stay connected and organized, right?

But wait! There is! And it may not be exactly what you’re expecting.

Non-profits may not have customers, but they do have volunteers and donors. And maintaining your volunteer and donor relationships isn’t much different than maintaining customer relationships.

Think you don’t need marketing for your non-profit? Think again. How else are you going to garner donations and bring volunteers to your events? Think you don’t need to track leads and woo people? Not so fast. Volunteers and donors aren’t always willing to part with their time and their money. They want to be sure you’re legitimate and that their time and money are used well.

A customer relationship management (CRM) suite isn’t just for businesses, it’s for non-profits too. It can help you keep track of volunteers, organize your team and events, and it can help you raise both funds and awareness with online tools.

The problem now? Which out of the many CRM tools do you use? Below we’re going to give you a primer on how to determine which tools you need and then we’re going to give you an overview of our top CRM for non-profits.

1. What’s Your Budget?

Nonprofits are often tight on cash. They rely on generous donations and small-time sales. Some rely on government grants. Whatever your nonprofit’s source of income, it’s not always generous.

This is why you might think CRM software is too expensive to adopt. But you’d be wrong in your assumptions. Most CRM software allows free use for up to a certain number of users. This allows small teams to use the software and not lose money.

Once you’ve scaled your non-profit and your operating budget increases, your team will increase accordingly. You’ll need to upgrade your CRM software to fit your team size, but that means you’ll be able to fit the price into your budget.

You see, CRM companies rely on the fact their tools will work. Their tools are designed to help businesses grow and scale. If a CRM tool doesn’t help your non-profit scale, then the CRM company hasn’t done its job and doesn’t deserve your money.

Thus, if you’re looking for something that fits in your budget, don’t be afraid to adopt a free version of an online CRM tool.

2. Understand the Features You Need

Not all CRM solutions are the same. Some will offer more in their cheap or free tier than others.

First, consider your needs. A non-profit might not need all the bells and whistles a corporation would need. For example, you might not need to understand customer data like preferences for certain foods or products, but you might need to understand what motivates or inspires volunteers or donors. A data collection tool that does the latter might come in handy. Some CRM options allow you to integrate with data collection services.

Most donors are tech-savvy enough to donate online. Some prefer donating online. How are you going to collect donations online without spending precious resources? Some CRM software suites include payment portals.

You might not realize what features would be useful for non-profit organizations. Ask yourself, how much time do you wish to spend finding and learning new software each time you need a new feature? Wouldn’t it be nice to just sit down at one interface, create event registration forms, build your email newsletter, and then monitor donations all in one platform?

Look for a CRM solution with email marketing tools. And above this, be sure these tools are automated. When you run a non-profit, your time is scarce and you won’t want to waste your time collecting email addresses and sending out emails.

Automated email marketing tools allow you to create professional-looking emails. These will reflect a professional light on your organization by ensuring every detail is correct down to how email addresses appear to each recipient.

3. What Integrations Might You Use?

Find a CRM platform with a comprehensive toolset. And even if it doesn’t have the tool you’re looking for, it might allow integrations. Integrations are outside software solutions you can connect to your software tool and use inside the ecosystem without ever leaving. Examples of these include Zoom, Slack, Google Drive, Gmail, Google Calendars, etc.

You may never have heard of CRM before. If so, you’re using other toolsets already. You’ve invested time in learning these tools and the data sets stored there will continue to be useful to your organization. Find a CRM suite with integrations for the tools you already use to maximize because this software should speed up your workflow instead of interrupting it.

Did you use a specific donation software before you decided to adopt a new software suite? There are likely hundreds of contacts and donors already saved in whatever tool you use. What if you didn’t have to use a new toolset for donations or the new toolset quickly and easily imported your contacts. Would this not be valuable in terms of time and money?

And what’s more, integrations often allow you to import contacts and data. You’ll suddenly be able to use all of that data to increase the effectiveness of your other marketing tools.

Our Top Picks: Free CRM Software Suites for NonProfits

Now that you understand how to choose CRM software for your non-profit, it’s time to look at some of our top picks. Keep scrolling to find out!

1. Bitrix24

Nonprofits can’t afford to hire CRM consultants for $100 or more an hour. They need all that money to maximize their impact. So, why would you sign on for a CRM software solution that’s difficult to customize or learn?

Bitrix24 is easy to customize and learn. Within seconds of signing on, you can create email templates, customize your statuses, arrange access rights, etc. And if you’re confused on any step, there are manuals and videos to guide your way.

When everything is in one place, it’s easy to keep track of all your volunteers and donors. Their host of CRM tools help you keep sight of your goals without losing one dollar or volunteer hour.

You can use any one of Bitrix24’s workflows or even customize your workflow. Your team can communicate efficiently through the Activity stream. Without breaking stride, your team can review activities and “like” them to acknowledge information without wasting time. But if your team is remote, you can also use the voice and video chat features to set up a meeting.

Build donation funnels online, create receipts, track potential donors, and more. Bitrix24’s tool chest will increase your donations and streamline your management processes.

And if something goes wrong, you won’t have to pay a cent for customer support. Top-notch multichannel customer support is always ready to help you problem-solve.

How Much is Bitrix24?

You’re looking for free and you’ve found free. If your team is smaller than 12 people, you can have the core offerings without paying a cent. 

For larger teams, the Standard version exists. For only $99 a month you can add an unlimited number of users. It gives you use of your own logo and 100GB of storage.

The Professional plan gives you unlimited storage and expanded meeting and briefing tools along with the ability to use your own domain.

2. Nutshell

nutshell crm for nonprofits

Nutshell claims they're the most flexible CRM around and they come fairly close. If you’re looking for something that’s almost as customizable as Bitrix24, but a slightly more utilitarian design, then Nutshell is for you.

One neat feature we’ve not seen elsewhere is Nutshell’s donor card scanning app. You can take a donor’s business card, scan it with the app, and that contact information ports directly into contacts automatically.

What’s Nutshell’s biggest downside? It doesn’t include the breadth of tool selection you might find in our number one pick. But it is a straightforward platform worthy of most any non-profit.

How Much is Nutshell?

Nutshell isn’t entirely free. They do give you a 14-day free trial. But at $20 per user per price for their entire suite with no other tiers, it’s a mighty good deal.

3. Netsuite

netsuite crm for nonprofits

Oracle’s Netsuite CRM package is geared more toward enterprises than non-profits or small businesses. But it can be useful for some small organizations that want to leverage powerful tools.

Analytics is Netsuite’s strong suit. It makes it easy for organizations to track, store, and monitor data to reveal areas for improvement. Information flow is fairly seamless while tracking donor lifecycles. You can use various sales metrics to monitor your donors and your marketing efforts.

Netsuite isn’t the easiest cookie to crack. It’s an older software that doesn’t track with newer trends in user interface. Features can be hard to find and you might need to spend hours just looking for the tools you need.

How Much is Netsuite?

Netsuite CRM+ is quote-based. This means that if you present your case well for your non-profit, you could get the software for cheap or even free.

4. Salesforce for Nonprofits

salesforce for nonprofits

Salesforce is unique in that it built a dedicated software for nonprofits. Their goal was to give organizations a full “360” view of their operations.

This includes personalized engagement plans that track donor improvements and boost fundraising and volunteer efforts. It includes custom marketing campaigns designed to specifically target different kinds of donors.

You can utilize tools designed specifically for managing donor gifts and in-kind gifts. And their tools allow you to customize your email campaigns to make them more personal.

How Much Does Salesforce for Nonprofits Cost?

It’s free for up to 10 users. But you must meet Salesforce’s strict eligibility guidelines.

Don’t Go Insane; Try CRM for Non-Profits Now

Are you going insane trying to keep track of your donors and your volunteers? Is your donation software not communicating with your email marketing software? Why haven’t you adopted CRM for non-profits?

Take advantage of some of the best online tools. They’re not just for businesses. It’s time to take the plunge. Try Bitrix24 for free today.

Free. Unlimited. Online.
Bitrix24 is a place where everyone can communicate, collaborate on tasks and projects, manage clients and do much more.