How to Successfully Switch your CRM with Maureen Wallbeoff

Choosing a New CRM and Preparing Your Nonprofit for the Big Switch

How to Love Your Next CRM with Maureen Wallbeoff

Choosing a New CRM and Preparing Your Nonprofit for the Big Switch

How to Love Your Next CRM with Maureen Wallbeoff

by GoldenburgGroup

Are you tired of how your nonprofit manages its data? Are you considering adopting a new, or perhaps your first, CRM? Then today’s episode is for you! 

Maureen Wallbeoff is an expert in both nonprofits and the technologies that help them thrive. Today she shares tips to help you love your next CRM. When you listen in you will hear how to select a CRM, how to make the change successfully, and a few recommended CRMs that are affordable and effective for small and medium-sized nonprofits. 

Listen to the Episode Here!


Website: Practical Wisdom for Nonprofit Accidental Techies

Accidental Techie’s Facebook Page

Website: Bloomerang

Website: Keela

Website: Neon

Website: Virtuous


(5:00) Honestly reflect on the core problems with your current CRM

(6:41) What you should think about before selecting a new CRM

(10:48) CRM tips for small nonprofits

(12:54) Keeping your data clean

(17:56) Check here for some CRM recommendations!!

(20:57) Preparing your organization for your CRM switch


Dolph Goldenburg (00:00):

Welcome to the Successful Nonprofits® Podcast. I’m your host, Dolph Goldenburg. We live in busy times and we have a lot to keep track of. For most nonprofits, managing relationships with clients, volunteers, staff, donors, and partners feels like a full-time job. And you know why? It is a full-time job. So it is always nice to stumble across new technology that makes our lives a little bit simpler. And about three decades ago, the CRM, or constituent relationship management, software came into our lives. And it came into our lives with some tremendous promise. Here to discuss CRMs with us today, to help us figure out what the right CRM is for us, what we should be doing with it, and what we should not be doing with it, is owner and consultant of Practical Wisdom for Nonprofit Accidental Techies. Maureen Wallbeoff describes herself as an accidental techie in that she started her career back in the nineties in the nonprofit world. And at that time, just as CRMs were really starting to come in, she took the initiative to learn about new technologies and then taught her coworkers how to use them. Then in 2007, she became the VP of a digital agency where she designed its initial systems and processes. And so essentially, with 17 years of nonprofit experience and 10 years of tech experience, Maureen not only talks tech, but she walks tech as well. So I am so excited about this conversation. Maureen, welcome to the podcast.

Maureen Wallbeoff (01:43):

It’s great to be here, Dolph. Thanks so much for the invitation.

Dolph Goldenburg (01:47):

Well, thank you. And let’s start with something simple, but I know can resonate deep within our listeners organizations. And that’s the online email sign up form, because I understand you’ve had an interesting experience with an online email sign up form that our listeners should really hear about.

Maureen Wallbeoff (02:05):

Don’t we all. It seems so simple on the surface of it. An online email sign up form on a nonprofit’s website is going to collect a little bit of information about the person and then put them into your house file and you can send them appeals and newsletters and invitations to events and things like that. And I was recently working with a client, who shall remain very anonymous, who had an online sign up form for their email list that had an optional checkbox for someone to pick the country that they were interested in. Am I interested in England or France, for example. But it wasn’t required. So I could sign up for their email list without picking a country. All very well and good, right? So when I started to work with this organization and we were doing discovery, we discovered something surprising and problematic, which is if you had signed up and did not select a country, you got no messages. It was the country selector that actually put you into an audience to get future email from that organization. And as we analyzed the data, it turned out that more than 50% of the people on their email list had not selected a country had not been getting messages for years.

Dolph Goldenburg (03:38):

Probably thousands of people.

Maureen Wallbeoff (03:41):

I would say it was upward of five.

Dolph Goldenburg (03:44):

5,000 people. Wow. Who just got no email messages. And once that email address is a few years’ stale it’s not like you can just start sending them and they’re going to know who you are.

Maureen Wallbeoff (03:54):

Exactly. If we moved them up, forget it. We’re going to add all these non-country preference people back into our house file. It may have been two or three years since they were interested originally in the work of this organization. And so you don’t send a welcome series to those people. And unfortunately that happens all the time. And those little tiny experiences that a supporter has if the tech isn’t set up right really can determine what you think the fundability of an organization is. So do you have your act together? No. So don’t ask me for money because you don’t look like you’re doing a good job. And so those small moments make a huge difference for organizations.

Dolph Goldenburg (04:42):

If I were a betting person, I would bet that the organization probably engaged you because they were thinking, “We don’t know if this CRM is right for us. It can’t do everything we want. And look, we’re not getting great response rates on our email, et cetera.” When in fact it was really what we might call user error over capacity of your CRM.

Maureen Wallbeoff (05:00):

Well, they had other problems, too, that were definitely related to their technology. We blame the technology first, always. Always it’s the tech. We think, “We’re great. Our website’s great, but it’s our platform or our database.” The analogy that I use is if you hate your dining room table, don’t move because you’re going to spend a lot of time and money moving into a house and that gross dining room table is coming right in with you. And blammo, you have brought the problem with you. So take a minute before you run off and look for, or move into a new system and do some reflection to find out what’s really causing your problems.

Dolph Goldenburg (05:42):

I’ll share with you a couple of years ago I worked with an organization that had used, and I know you’re going to breathe in deep. And I did too when I first heard this. But they used three different CRMs in four years. And none of them would meet their needs. I don’t do CRM consulting. I was actually on a different project and heard this. And I thought, “Oh my gosh, three CRMs in four years! What’s this about?” I needed them to pull some data for me based on zip codes. And they came back and said, “Oh, this CRM won’t pull data for zip codes.” And I couldn’t believe that to be true. So I asked them to share their login with me so I could figure it out myself. I think so often we’re disappointed by CRMs and it’s because either we’ve not received the training that’s necessary or we don’t have the bandwidth that’s necessary to make it work for us.

Maureen Wallbeoff (06:34):

Right. Or we weren’t paying attention to the right requirements when we decided that was a good fit.

Dolph Goldenburg (06:41):

Yep, absolutely. So what are some of those things that you help organizations think through? Because almost every organization I know is unhappy with their CRM. So what are some of the things that you help organizations think through as they’re thinking about a new CRM system?

Maureen Wallbeoff (06:57):

The first step is usually to make sure that they’ve got a shared vision of what the next three to five years is going to be like for their organization. What are their priorities? Which audiences will they be focusing on? What do they want to grow? Because your tech and the functionality of that tech needs to support your organizational goals. And often they are worlds apart. Nobody considers “Hmmm, we’re a membership organization. We probably should find a CRM that’s got great membership functionality right now.” They don’t think like that. And that’s normal because all of these systems look very similar. A lot of them do the same things. And you can get very dazzled by the shiny object. So having your strategy set and knowing what a new database is going to help you achieve is number one. Number two is: what internal processes are you struggling with right now that a new CRM could help you do better or more efficiently or more effectively? If someone always takes the checks and then they do this and that and 17 steps later the data gets into the database. Or you’ve got systems that don’t talk to each other. they’re not integrated, which causes those data silos then all bets are off. You’re never going to have a full view of your supporter and all the things they’re doing. You know the event stuff that they’re doing and the fundraising stuff that they’re doing, but never the twain shall meet unless all the data is in one place.

Dolph Goldenburg (08:36):

Then you also don’t know if they volunteer or if their kid participates in a program or anything like that. You don’t know the full picture of your constituents.

Maureen Wallbeoff (08:44):

Yeah. And everybody needs it. And what’s really great about now is that everybody knows they really need that. The team silos need to be broken down. It doesn’t matter if you’re working in a distributed way permanently or you’re going to go back to the office. That collaborative sense of what do we all need is what we all need. So requirements are functionality for sure: needs to take monthly sustaining gifts, needs to be able to do peer to peer fundraising, needs to have an email marketing tool in it, needs to moves management to do wealth screenings and prospect research and ultimately to make those asks to your potential major donor. But there’s also equally important requirements around people. How many people do you have on your team and what skills do they have? What kind of training will they need and how should that training be delivered?

Maureen Wallbeoff (09:38):

And people in terms of the company: Who do you want to have a business relationship with? Are you looking for a large well-established, they’ve been around forever organization? Or are you looking for something a little leaner, maybe not a brand new platform, but a CRM that’s not been around for 35 years? And then integration meaning data being able to move from one place to another. So all of those things come into play in terms of your satisfaction with the product that you pick. But we usually go right to functionality and we forget those other important things. And what I find is that those things, the how do I get trained? Do I like this company? Is it going to move data effectively around inside my organization? Those are much more likely to result in either a positive or a negative experience with that product than what the button looks like to build an email message. That’s important, but those other things are critical for you to feel like I can live in this thing for another five years before moving

Dolph Goldenburg (10:48):

A lot of our listeners are small to medium sized organizations. So a total staff size of 2 people to maybe 25 people. When you’re talking staff sizes of between 2 and 25, you’re also talking relatively limited amount of staff time available for data entry. So what can the small organizations do to ensure that they’re managing their data well, and that they’re effectively using their CRM?

Maureen Wallbeoff (11:16):

That’s a great question. I think that number one would be your CRM should have as much online functionality in it as possible so that way the data is going right into the CRM when someone makes a gift or when someone signs up for email. So that manual equalization of pulling your Constant Contact list and pushing it into your CRM. That’s grunt work, nobody likes doing that. And it’s never at the top of our list. So the more you can get the system to actually capture and house the data, the more you’ll have time to actually analyze and use it.

Maureen Wallbeoff (11:54):

And then the second is acknowledging people enter data all different ways. So maybe the last time you made a donation, you used your work email address and the next time you make a donation you’re going to use your personal email address. That’s happening all the time. We can get it all cleaned up and then our supporters come along and mess it up a little bit. So focusing your time on keeping your data clean once a month, looking for duplicates and merging them, and making the decisions that a human needs to make. Because you’re going to clean up your data before you move in and then it immediately becomes deprecated. So part of your CRM planning process should be a little bit about ownership: Who’s going to go in and clean this stuff up. How often will we do it? And as we notice trends, is there anything that we can do on the form side, the thing a supporter might interact with that might decrease the chance that we’re creating duplicates?

Dolph Goldenburg (12:54):

What are some of those things? I know every small nonprofit is interested in this one: what are some of the things they could do on the form side that decreases the chance of a dupe?

Maureen Wallbeoff (13:03):

So it depends on the product. Some products have the ability to recognize, without logging in, that you have been there before. So it will pre-populate some of the forms, as long as there’s that cookie in your browser that’s going to recognize you. Number one, it makes it much faster for the donor to actually take that action and make that gift. But it also means that you’re displaying data that the CRM already has. The donor doesn’t have to type it in again so it is less likely they will make an error. And then the second piece there is don’t collect a thousand things in a form. Forms need to be tight and quick for people to use, especially on a small device. So for you to give fewer choices, not collect so much at the time of the gift, perhaps, or at the time they’re signing up for email, but follow up with future messages to gather more information and populate that profile in your CRM.

Dolph Goldenburg (14:06):

I love that. One of the things I’ve always wondered, are there any systems that allow donors to log in and clean up their own information should they want to?

Maureen Wallbeoff (14:15):

There are actually, and it depends on the attitude of the organization, how comfortable they are with that. So there absolutely are systems at all different price points.

Dolph Goldenburg (14:28):

Really? So not just Raiser’s Edge, like little green light kind of stuff?

Maureen Wallbeoff (14:33):

You don’t have to have the big Cadillac in order to have that. So in some cases, the organization’s team can make decisions about what data a supporter can see and of that data, what they’re allowed to change. So think about monthly donors, sustainers credit card expiration dates and all of that. For you to be able to have a donor log in and update their credit card information so that you continue to get that monthly gift is much easier than having it lapse and then trying valiantly to get somebody to sign back up again.

Dolph Goldenburg (15:11):

Wow. I love that. I asked that a little bit selfishly, because, God bless my parents, they named me Adolf Goldenberg. And my pet peeve, because I never put my name in anywhere as Adolf, is when they then pull my credit card information. Because I don’t even put that into the field, but they’ll somehow pull my credit card information and change my name to Adolf. If I could just go online and change that, I would every single time.

Maureen Wallbeoff (15:33):

Yeah. So word to the wise, you’re hearing it from Dolph today, that if you have the opportunity to do that, he would appreciate it.

Dolph Goldenburg (15:41):

Right. You can add your spouse’s name or if you misspell your spouse’s name, it’s on you and not on the charity.

Maureen Wallbeoff (15:48):

That’s right. The more information that you can collect in a conversational way, in a way that is not burdensome to the supporter, that’s more actions they’re taking. And the best time to ask somebody to take an action is right after they already took one, which feels a little counterintuitive, but that’s how it is. So if somebody goes in and updates their credit card information, you might want to try to get them to give a slightly higher amount for their monthly gift.

Dolph Goldenburg (16:18):

Right. And I also have to say, I would love it if after I made an online gift for the first time, my thank you email had a sentence that said, “If you want to update your online profile with us, click this link and set up a log in.” I would do it for an organization I wanted a relationship with. Now, if I was just making a gift because I told a friend I would do it, I probably would not. But if I wanted a relationship with the organization, I would absolutely create an online profile.

Maureen Wallbeoff (16:41):

And it’s all possible. That’s the thing. Your donors know you’re tracking them, whether you’re using that information or not, you are paying attention and tracking the things that they’re doing. And when you don’t use that to continue to strengthen the relationship, it’s a bummer. Let’s say for Giving Tuesday you’re going to send three messages during the day to your supporters, encouraging them to make a gift. So I send you message number one, Dolph, and you make the gift. I should not send you messages two and three. And that happens all the time.

Dolph Goldenburg (17:20):

Yes it does. It absolutely does. And you’re right. You should set up your system in such a way that they do not get the subsequent messages other than “Thank you. We’re grateful.”

Maureen Wallbeoff (17:30):

Yeah. The auto responder saying thanks is always great. But nothing is more frustrating as a supporter, especially a new supporter, to feel like you’re not paying attention to them. “You asked me to do something. I did it. And you don’t know that I did it. What’s going on!?” So, again, it is back to impressions.

Dolph Goldenburg (17:49):

So let me ask you the $64,000 question, which hopefully will not cost our organization $64,000.

Maureen Wallbeoff (17:55):

Okay. Hopefully not.

Dolph Goldenburg (17:56):

So again, thinking about a smaller organization of 2 to 25 staff members and a budget between $100,000 and $2 million a year. Let’s assume they want to attract donors, and that includes online giving. They have volunteers. And they also do special events, but they don’t have membership. I know you’re going to say, “Dolph, it depends.” But in general, are there two or three CRMs they should be thinking about?

Maureen Wallbeoff (18:20):

Okay, so this is a hard one because I try not to make product name recommendations. Everything’s got to line up and work individually. But on that end of the spectrum, cost-wise I might look at something like NeonCRM. I might look at something like Bloomerang. I might look at something like Keela, which is fairly new to the market and kind of super cool. Virtuous CRM is another one. Those are a few top of mind products that people seem to be liking very much that do a very good job of serving up, not just the basic stuff, but actually the stuff that helps you grow your program

Dolph Goldenburg (19:02):

Listeners, just so you know, Maureen does not work for any of these CRM companies. So I’ve heard of NeonCRM. I’ve heard of Bloomerang. I don’t think I’ve heard of Keela. You said it can do some really cool stuff. If you’re comfortable, I’d love for you to share a little bit more.

Maureen Wallbeoff (19:16):

Yeah. So what I love about most of these platforms is that, number one, they are mobile friendly. So every form that you build or email that you send out is already predesigned and formatted to work on a small device. That’s not optional anymore. If your stuff isn’t responsive it needs to be. I also find that those particular products do a lot of new developments. So, unlike some of the larger tools that take 12 years to add new functionality to because they are so big and robust and complex, these folks can say, “Oh, three of our customers want some new thing. We’re going to put it in place and roll it out to everybody.” So I find that their training is great, very customer focused and high-touch. Which smaller organizations with smaller teams need because often I’m backing you up because maybe you’re on vacation. So I’m not using the system all the time and I need to know that I can call support or submit a ticket and the company is going to be responsive to me if I’m new or I need some help.

Dolph Goldenburg (20:25):

I love that. We’re going to link all four of those CRMs in our show notes. And again, I know you’re independent and you’re not working for any of them, Maureen. But we’re going to link all four of those because you recommend them and you know what you’re talking about. So small and medium sized nonprofits that are thinking about that transition really need to think about checking them out now. So for those that are thinking about the transition, we’ve already talked a little bit about make sure you clean your data before you migrate it over and make sure that you’ve got some schedules and some ownership about who’s going to be keeping the data clean. Anything else they should be thinking about during or as part of the transition?

Maureen Wallbeoff (20:57):

I’m literally teaching a course on this for TechSoup that starts in June, which is How to Manage Your CRM Migration Project. So there’s understanding how you’re going to keep yourselves on task. That’s a big one. What’s our culture say around due dates? Do they blow by and it’s okay. Or can I be a good partner to my CRM company who’s moving me in? Because the nonprofits have responsibilities in all of this, too. The other thing is to think about your business processes and be open to change. Some teams get a new CRM and then they customize the life out of it so that they can maintain their current business processes. You’re never going to get a good return on your investment if that’s what you do. So be open to recognizing how you do things now with the CRM you don’t like, and see if there’s a better way to do it in the new CRM.

Maureen Wallbeoff (21:51):

And then finally be ready for things to take a little bit longer to do as you’re learning the new technology. You may not love the system you’re in now, but you probably are on autopilot when you’re doing some of your work in that thing. “Here’s what I do. I run this report. Blah-blah-blah.” There’s a J curve when learning a new system, so your performance is going to go down for a little while before you attain CRM Nirvana. So be ready for people to complain a little bit about how it used to be faster to do it in the old system. Yeah. Because you had been doing it for 10 years. So give yourself a couple months before you start to really think about, is this the way that we were originally using it? Is it efficient? It might just be the team taking time to get used to it.

Dolph Goldenburg (22:42):

So really kind of retrain and retool the team so that they can get the most out of using the system.

Maureen Wallbeoff (22:47):

Oh, supporting users and user adoption. That’s a whole other podcast we could do at another time because it’s changed. And not everybody is excited about that.

Dolph Goldenburg (22:58):


Maureen Wallbeoff (22:59):

Shockingly, yes.

Dolph Goldenburg (23:01):

That honestly surprises me.

Maureen Wallbeoff (23:03):

No. No one misses their hated CRM more than in the first two weeks of using their new CRM. Because it’s like renting a car. You know your car. You know where everything is, you know where the radio knobs are. It’s automatic. And this new one, everything’s in a different place and you’ve got to adjust your mirrors. So it does take a little bit of time to get familiar enough and comfy in the new system.

Dolph Goldenburg (23:29):

I get this is a big organization thing. And I also know that the world in general does not work this way anymore. But when you say that, what I think about is back in the olden days, in the early to mid-nineties, I was working in an organization and we bought Raiser’s Edge. There wasn’t any online training. You actually had to schedule and go to South Carolina for a couple of weeks and get your training.

Maureen Wallbeoff (23:51):

I went to Texas. I was in Austin. That’s what I did.

Dolph Goldenburg (23:55):

I know the world no longer works that way, but that model of get trained so that you know what you’re using and what you’re looking at and take the time to do it makes a lot of sense.

Maureen Wallbeoff (24:06):

Don’t skimp. Do not skip on training at all. It is how you get a good return on investment. If everybody’s using it, then you can grow into it. The other thing I’ll say here is that different people learn different ways. That’s totally legitimate. So you may have some people who want to read the printout and then try it on their own. Some people want to watch you do it and then do it themselves. So be open to a variety of different learning styles, if you can, when you’re moving.

Dolph Goldenburg (24:37):

Absolutely. I have really enjoyed chatting with you about CRMs. I have got to move to the off-the-map question, though, so our Listeners can get to know you a little bit more other than just as the amazing CRM person. And I just have to share with you, Listeners, that I already feel like I know Maureen just a little bit more because we can see each other and I’m looking at the room that she’s in. She’s in Cape Cod and she’s in this beautiful Cape Cod-style room, too. Oh my gosh. But I understand that you managed a float center and I actually don’t really even know that much about float centers. And so it sounds fascinating, but I need you to tell me more.

Maureen Wallbeoff (25:19):

Yeah. So this was when I was in college. Float centers are coming back now, actually, to help us with our stress. So it is sensory deprivation tanks. So you would get into a tank of water that was exactly the temperature of the outside of your skin. And it has Epsom salt in it so you float on top of the water in the dark and you can listen to music and it just relaxes you. You sort of have taken away all of your physical and mental stimulation so your brain quiets down and you just don’t react in a stressful way. It lasts for a couple of days. It was a really great job. I met some very cool people working there. It was very new agey.

Dolph Goldenburg (26:08):

I got to ask you a couple of stupid questions. So you said you can listen to music, but I envisioned that your ears have water in them. So how do you listen to the music

Maureen Wallbeoff (26:17):

Speakers were under the water inside the flotation tank. So it was playing underneath you. Your ears would probably be in the water. That’s where the water line would be.

Dolph Goldenburg (26:29):

Wow. So when the pandemic is over, whenever that is 6 months from now or 24 months from now, I’ve got to try to find a float center. Because that really sounds awesome.

Maureen Wallbeoff (26:38):

You really do. It is awesome. Somebody cuts you off in traffic. That’s great. Doesn’t matter.

Dolph Goldenburg (26:45):

So, Maureen, thank you for taking the time to chat with us today. And Listeners, if you would like to learn more about CRMs and other technologies to help your nonprofit, then take a look at Maureen’s website, That’s There you can find lots of free resources to help you evaluate your own software and make decisions about how to move forward. And don’t worry, Maureen makes everything clear and easy to understand for everybody who’s a non-techie. And, frankly, these days that also includes me. I used to be a techie and I think technology has now passed me by. Also make sure you check out Accidental Techie’s Facebook page for lots of videos and posts about the nonprofit tech world. Maureen, thank you again.

Maureen Wallbeoff (27:36):

Dolph, thanks so much. It’s been a pleasure and I wish you a good rest of your day

Dolph Goldenburg (27:41):

Listeners, if you’ve gotten lost down the rabbit hole of videos Maureen has on Accidental Techie’s Facebook, then head on over to our website at to get her URL, We’ll have the links we’ve mentioned and a full transcript of the show right there for you. Also, if you have not already done so, please take a minute to rate and review us on your streaming app of choice. A few months ago, Brooklyn Legacy left a review on iTunes that concludes “This podcast delivers. You won’t hear repetitive content and will never get bored.” Hey, Brooklyn Legacy, thanks for the shout out and the praise. I do want to share with you that we’re actually at a crossroads with the podcast and we’ve now moved to the point where we are not scheduling new recording sessions with potential guests who are pitched to us by PR people. It seems to me that most of the folks that get pitched to us by PR people are on this nonprofit podcast circuit, just going from podcast to podcast over the course of a few months. As an avid podcast listener myself, I really dislike hearing the same person and the same message three times in a two month period. So, while we have a few more pitched guests to work through, we will soon have even more original content you will not hear on any other podcast. So, Listeners, that is our show for this week. I hope you have gained some insight to help your nonprofit thrive in a competitive environment.

Dolph Goldenburg (29:10):

I am not an accountant or attorney and neither I nor the Goldenburg Group provide tax legal or accounting advice. This material has been provided for informational purposes only. It’s not intended to provide and should not be relied on for tax, legal or accounting advice. Always consult a qualified, licensed professional about such matters.



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