Non profit organisation boosts engagement with customer management software

Non profit organisation Compassion Australia has boosted engagement with sponsors with customer management software.

Daniel Jang had a problem you’ll probably find familiar

“We had information stored in a lot of small systems like Access, Excel and Act!,” says Jang, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Project Evangelist at non profit organisation Compassion Australia.

Jang’s widely-spread information concerned sponsors of children who live in poverty around the world. Compassion Australia (CA) runs a variety of programs to help such children, often by finding Australians to become sponsors of a child or a project in the communities where they live.

“We work with local church in poor communities to facilitate child sponsorship programs,” Jang explains. “Rather than setting up our own projects, we use existing infrastructure. We also look at spiritual poverty, not just material poverty. We think giving hope is an important element of getting out of poverty.”

That approach has attracted the support of over 80,000 sponsors, who support more than 90,000 children.

The scale of that effort made it important to have better systems than those mentioned above, but Jang felt there were deeper business benefits to be had from CRM.

“We have major donors and supporters who support children individually. There are also church partners and corporate partners.”

CA communicates with all of these stakeholders as often as possible, but Jang admits that the organisation’s focus on assisting children meant “we could sometimes take our eye off supporters.”

Enter Jang, a former IBM employee, who felt that if CA could identify and improve the businesses processes the organisation uses to communicate with supporters, partners and sponsored children, the result would be better customer retention and better services at the pointy end.

“We try to build a relationship [with supporters] so it is not just a transaction,” he explains. “In the past, you could call our call centre and they would not really know what is going on with the child you sponsor. It was cold.”

That chilly experience represented risk.

“A lot of people give money to a charity and when there is an event in their lives they drop out, unless they have an emotional connection” Jang says.

Building that emotional connection was something Jang felt CRM could achieve, by allowing the creation of a single record about sponsors and the kids they sponsor that would be accessible to staff at CA.

“We can build a bridge and say to sponsors: ‘The last time you wrote to your sponsored child was in April’ and then explain what came of that latter. If we leverage CRM better we can retain the sponsor, not just to retain them but also to help people in developing countries.”

The organisation has also created a portal for sponsors, with this facility allowing them to view correspondence with sponsored children and other material from CA.

Jang’s IBM experience helped him to devise this model, but also taught him that “just because we rolled out this CRM solution that can do many things does not mean people will use it. We need to explain how it will make things easier and contribute to the cause and benefit children. So when we are training staff members, we need them to understand the reasons behind this IT rollout. When they are used to [existing] systems, adding software is not a pleasant thing to introduce. It’s about changing culture to be more customer-centric.”

“One of the things we learned is that any change takes time. We have had lots of success, there is still more to do.”

That more will include greater integration between CA’s CRM – provided by RightNow – and its financial systems. CRM will also be pressed into use in a social network CA operates called the Child Advocacy Network (CAN) that it will make available to existing sponsors and to supporters that have not yet established a financial relationship with the organisation.

“The aim is to extend beyond sponsorship so that people can go in and contribute. The challenge is that this is a separate website and we will be trying to integrate with the MyCompassion portal, while allowing single sign-on for both.”

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