Stakeholder Management for Emerging Nonprofits

Donor Management & Engagement / By Mike Crum

You’re growing your Nonprofit and you’ve been so focused on programs and outcomes. But… you’ve been so busy flying the plane, you haven’t had time or focus to work on the plane!

You’ve got to grow your Nonprofit’s inside operations and capacity so you can keep growing and increase your effectiveness.

Where to start? Stakeholder management and engagement are where you need to start!

You’ve likely built a lot of stakeholders who are involved with your Nonprofit. From donors, to beneficiaries, to sister Nonprofit organizations, to board members — the list goes on. You’ve got to invest time in managing these relationships and engaging these stakeholders.

I’ve worked in and with young and emerging Nonprofits, and systematizing stakeholder management and engagement is almost always tricky, time consuming, and sometimes a blind alley where you just hope you’re doing the right thing. Most of the time, at this nascent stage of the Nonprofit’s lifecycle, Nonprofits are using Excel to store their data (or in the old days – Access – remember Access?). This is a start! But, it’s far from optimal.

Two quick stories to illustrate and empathize with where emerging Nonprofits are often at with Excel, and the perils and tribulations of relying solely on Excel for data management:

I was re-launching a statewide Nonprofit that was operating in the 90’s, then dissolved, and was getting started in again in 2002. They had kept their donor data in Excel, but the file was nowhere to be found. The first step I took was going to a former board member’s basement looking for dot matix printouts of the Nonprofit’s donor information. After drying it off (seriously, the papers were wet and mildewed), I entered the data into Excel – which was our CRM for a while, until we finally got around to getting a cloud-based CRM.

Another time, I was consulting with a statewide Nonprofit and they were using Excel as their database. Unfortunately, they accidentally did a bad sort of their data and somehow deleted all the last names in the file. And, they had no back-up. Oops. We rebuilt the data, in a painstaking way, then adopted a cloud based CRM.

So, in both stories the Nonprofits grew out of Excel and went with a cloud-based CRM solution. Here’s hoping you take the next step – finding an intuitive cloud-based CRM software program that you can use to not only safeguard your data, but also use it to engage your stakeholders.

Invest the time needed to select and implement a cloud-based CRM and you’ll be on your way to engaging all your Nonprofit’s stakeholders. You can manage and track your various stakeholders, and create segmented audiences. Ensure you get a CRM that has a robust email marketing program so you can maximize your communications, and generate reports that provide insights into the success of your email campaigns. This allows you to save time, ensure the emails are delivered, and track open rates and other metrics.

You can use metrics to identify the real champions of your Nonprofit, based on open rates and click-throughs. For example, you might notice that some stakeholders have opened 60+ out of 65 emails sent – these are folks you need to ensure you’re taking offline for further conversations! They could become larger donors, board members, and -/-or volunteers for your Nonprofit. 

Segmenting your various stakeholders into different audiences is vital. You don’t want to send donation appeals to your Nonprofit partners, and you want to discern between annual donors, major donors, and monthly donors. A solid CRM will help you do this with ease.

So, if you’re still in Excel, or perhaps you’re stuck using a CRM that requires hours of watching tutorial videos just to learn the basics; don’t hesitate to do some research and find a CRM with robust email capability . And remember, stakeholders means much more than just donors – you want a CRM that can help you engage all your Nonprofit’s stakeholders. 

Good luck as you continue to grow your programs – as well as your internal capacity and operations!


Mike Crum

Subject Matter Expert

Mike is a recognized expert, thought leader, advisor and speaker in the Nonprofit world. Over the past four decades, Mike served as an Executive Director, COO, see more

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