It’s Back to School!

by Mark Panger, Trail Blazer Campaign Services

While your kids are returning to school and learning new things, maybe you’d like to take inspiration from them and update your contact relationship management software (CRM) skills. Hopefully you are more excited about the new school year than my grandson was.

Your organization has invested time and money into its CRM. If your CRM includes unlimited support and training (as does ours - Trail Blazer), it’s a no-brainer to maximize your dollars and take advantage of that “free” help.

So, what topics would make sense to learn more about? Anytime you have a moment of frustration with not knowing how to do something, that’s a topic for training. That’s it!

I frequently tell my customers to struggle to the point of learning, but to NOT struggle to the point of irritation. Your vendor will have the answers for you and they are there to help you.

If you are adventurous or just like to know everything about the tools you use, then there are areas you may want to develop your skills.

Reporting is always the first place to start. Do you know how to run a LYBUNT report? Do you know the last communication you had with donor?

Maybe your area is communications. How well do you know how to use your mass email tool? If are not sure of what you should be tracking regarding your contacts, that too is an opportunity for training.

If you have a larger database (more than 10k records) then keeping that data up-to-date can be a full time job. Anytime you allow for data to be entered by your contacts (such as when they donate to you) or you import data from other sources, you will introduce duplicate data into your database. This will require vigilance on your part to combine those duplicates. The database can do much of this automatically assuming what the contact entered themselves matches what you have stored in your CRM.

BUT!, that does not always happen. Do I have variation of the same address in the database? (that leads to duplicate contact records since merging is dependent upon the address being consistent). Do I have variations of a person’s name? It’s stored as Donald, but there’s another record with the name Donny.

Your CRM likely has tools to help you manage this process to keep your data in pristine condition.


  • Schedule time with your team members to discuss what items you want to track.
    • Are you using the defaults that came with your system? CRM’s provide a basic set of items for you to track, but every organization is different and thus you need your own set of items to track in addition to the defaults.

    • What items should be retired? (I have had conversations with customers about some of the items being tracked and they cannot tell me what the data means much less why it was tracked in the past. That’s a candidate for retirement of that item.)

    Outcome of the meetings should be some action items on tracking. You may not know how to accomplish them, or what the possibilities are so make sure you talk to the CRM vendor. Plan the tracking changes in a way that communicates to the others that use the system, but might not have been involved with the conversation, so they will know to expect the changes. This communication should involve the instructions so everyone is on the same page and working towards the same goals.

  • Act like a new contact and run through your online signups. Any point on your website where data is fed to your CRM is a place you will want to visit.
    • Does your website flow properly. Remember to pretend you know little or nothing about your organization. How easy is it to find information about your organization? How is it to find out about the people within your org? This is a big one: How easy is it to find and make a donation? I’m often surprised by web sites that make this harder than it should.

    • For those signup that require a thank you, is that process working as you desire. Does the person receive an automated thank you email? Is the content of that thank you kept fresh?

    Outcome of the website run though should be some action Items on what worked and didn’t work. Notes on little changes that might not have been noticed and had slipped by over the years (an old address/phone needing removal). You may need to get others involved in the updating process. Screenshots and documentation will be your friend to help keep everyone on track and keep the scope of the work to corrections and not a whole website rewrite.

This article was written by Trail Blazer Campaign Services, Inc., 620 Mendelssohn Ave. N., Suite 186, Minneapolis, MN 55427-4350. Copyright 2018. Trail Blazer Campaign Services. All Rights Reserved.

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