5 Steps to Evaluate the Cost of a New Nonprofit CRM System - Heller Consulting

5 Steps to Evaluate the Cost of a New Nonprofit CRM System

There comes a point in most nonprofit organizations when it’s time for a new customer relationship management (CRM) system. In fact, according to the 2019 Fundamentals of Marketing and Engagement at Nonprofit Organizations Report by Salesforce.org, 32% of nonprofits in the U.S. plan to invest in a CRM system in the next fiscal year.

When you reach that stage, you must not only build a business case for a move to new CRM software, but also understand how much the new system you are considering will cost your nonprofit.

Determining CRM pricing may seem simple. Some CRM software vendors list their pricing right on their websites. But take a closer look, and you’ll see that pricing is typically for basic versions of the product.

When you need a more robust system to meet more complex needs, your nonprofit likely will need the “enterprise” version of the software, which usually requires you to call the vendor for a quote. That’s because pricing varies based on your nonprofit’s unique needs.

Another consideration is that no two CRM products are priced the same way. So, it’s important to consider multiple factors and arm yourself with data to evaluate various CRM systems.


For more tips on CRM pricing, download our free tool kit: Nonprofit CRM Pricing

Here are five steps to help you accurately evaluate the pricing of CRM software:

  1. Understand the cost of your current system
    To evaluate the price of a new CRM system, it’s important to have a reference point. Start by looking at the overall monthly or annual cost of your current system. Then, dig in to better understand what factors lead to that cost. For example:

    • Look into the components of the cost. These might include a monthly or annual subscription fee, fees for software licenses or “seats” (how many people are using your system), a per-transaction fee, and email or data volume fees.
    • Be sure to include add-ons, such as advanced support or overage fees.
    • Think about associated costs of your system. For example, your system might require a server that runs on-site at your organization.

It’s also important to remember that these costs might not all appear in the same area of your nonprofit’s budget. Understanding these elements gives you the benchmark you need to compare costs with other CRM systems.

TIP: Include both platform costs and professional services costs. For example, look up fees associated with the rights to use the software as well as costs for services to make your team successful on the system.

  1. Look at each CRM system’s pricing structure
    You might be tempted to ask, “How much does CRM product X cost?” But the truth is that there is not a single answer to that question. That’s because each product will have a different pricing structure, and the final cost will depend on your requirements.A more accurate question is: “How much will CRM product X cost our nonprofit?” To find the answer, you must understand the product’s fee structure. For example:

    • Is product license pricing based on a per-user structure or bands of users (such as 1-10 users, 11-20 users, 21-50 users, etc.)?
    • Are monthly or annual costs relatively higher with no transaction fees, or are they lower and charge an additional fee that is a percentage of transactions?
    • What are the typical “extras” for the system? For example: product support, data storage, etc.

Pricing structure can make a big difference in what you pay for your CRM system. Just think: If your nonprofit plans to hire more staff members next year, product licensing structure could be particularly important. Or, if your organization plans to increase the number of donations next year, transaction fees might dramatically impact the cost.

TIP: Be sure to understand the CRM system’s fixed and variable costs. For example, which of the costs are fixed for the life of the contract and not likely to change in future contracts, and which costs, such as user and transaction fees, may go up and down throughout the life of the contract.


  1. Arm yourself with your nonprofit’s relevant details
    Once you understand pricing structures for each CRM system, you will know what information you need to get an accurate quote. For example, if the CRM vendor charges a per-user fee, you will need to know how many users you have/will expect to have. If the CRM vendor charges a transaction fee, you will need to have on hand your current and projected number of transactions. If you know you will need more than basic support, identify your specific support needs.
  2. Engage with an account representative for pricing
    Now that you know how much your current system costs, the pricing structure of the CRM system you are evaluating, and your nonprofit’s relevant details, you have the information you need to get an accurate quote. These details will enable your account representative to understand your specific requirements and will allow you to compare the resulting quote with the costs of your current system.

TIP: Ask the account representative about one-time versus ongoing costs. For example, is there an initial implementation and/or training fee? Are there ongoing system and support costs?

  1. Know that most things are negotiable
    With pricing quote in hand, you can use the great research you’ve done to negotiate the best pricing for your nonprofit. Some CRM software vendors will adjust pricing to win you as a customer. So, ask for concessions that are most important to your organization.For example, if you expect a large number of transactions in the next year, you might ask for a small reduction in the per-transaction fee that will make a big difference to your organization. Or, if you anticipate adding a few staff members in the coming months, which would push you into the next band of licensing fee, perhaps ask for the lower band price.

Take the next step
Evaluating the cost of a new CRM system can be difficult to figure out because no two systems are priced the same way, and most pricing structures depend on your organization’s specific requirements. By following the steps outlined in this article, you’ll be well on your way to determining the accurate cost of your next CRM software.

The Heller Consulting team is ready to help. Let me know what systems you have, and which you are evaluating, and I’ll share helpful insights from our experience with our nonprofit clients: Contact me now.

About the Author

Jett Winders
Jett works collaboratively with nonprofits to map their business needs to CRM tools and functionality so that organizations can deliver their missions more effectively and raise money more efficiently.  With more than 15 years of fundraising experience, Jett has had... Read More