CFB Strategies Cofounders Anderson and Vaillancourt: Catching Up With CRM

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Trace Anderson and Robert Vaillancourt are cofounders of CFB Strategies, which provides data management for political campaigns and nonprofits.

Anderson is the company's president and Vaillancourt is its CTO.

In this exclusive interview, CRM Buyer speaks with them about the role of CRM in fundraising.

CRM Buyer: How have innovations in CRM affected the world of campaigns and nonprofits?

Trace Anderson: Traditionally in the campaign world, it was an old-school mentality of just collecting checks. Even when I started working in politics, from 2006 to 2008, everything was done by hand. Now, with everything being done online, there are numerous channels of fundraising, and the cloud enables us to combine all of that information and segment it properly.

For instance, on any campaign you have a finance team, which handles everything related to money -- collecting checks, soliciting donations and all that. The cloud gives them one place to work, to be able to see where all those donations live, how they came in, and how they can go about maximizing efficiency to raise more money.

CRM Buyer: Do new CRM strategies help campaigns and organizations know their donors better?

Anderson: It gives a better idea of the donor's world, with the basic data and metrics you've collected on them. Any CRM is as good as how you use it. What it enables us to do is to keep special notes and tabs on these people.

Maybe it's something as simple as when the person's birthday is, or maybe it's that person's dog or kid, or whatever. You can collect as much information as possible. From that perspective, it absolutely helps finance teams keep really good tabs on those donors and cultivate those relationships.

Robert Vaillancourt: A lot of the time [everyone's] wearing multiple hats, so they're not only the fundraiser but the campaign manager or the event coordinator. It's having some kind of knowledge of what you're trying to achieve, and then picking the right CRM to fit that and the tools you might want to use.

For instance, a small campaign might just need a basic landing page, with the ability to collect (US)$10 here and $20 there. They don't need a unique landing page for each message that is out there.

Larger campaigns, though, are going to need to do more analysis, maybe integrate maps to see where the donations are coming from, and so on.

Anderson: The biggest challenge, particularly for campaigns and nonprofits, is simple education and knowledge of what CRM is, what it can do, and how it can simplify their lives.

One of the challenges we face being a CRM vendor that operates in the cloud and builds out custom CRM for our clients is opening their eyes and showing them what's possible. It can be something as simple as chasing this person with an email, keeping tabs on communication, or logging notes.

A lot of our clients aren't educated about what CRM does, and getting over this education hurdle is one of the biggest challenges we face.

CRM Buyer: What do you see in the future for CRM for campaigns and nonprofits?

Anderson: With the Internet of Things, all of the things we're using are starting to communicate with one another, and CRM plays a central role in all of that. That's where a lot of these things are going to go to reside, at least from the perspective of running basic reports where you can glean information.

You can take the information, regardless of where it's coming from, and run reports. The more we connect things -- whether it's cars or phones or watches -- CRM is going to play an important role in the advancement of that.

Vaillancourt: To me, it's just a lot more user adoption. More and more companies are going to start to adopt some sort of CRM to work with their database. They're going to move away from the Excel spreadsheet mindset and work with the data in the cloud.

You're going to see a lot more people not familiar with CRM ... start to adopt it.

CRM Buyer: How do you see fundraising CRM evolving?

Anderson: The campaign and nonprofit worlds are typically about six to seven years behind where the business world is in terms of technology implementation. The more things are connected -- the more we grow -- [the more] user adoption and utilizing CRM and various technologies will continue to increase. From a nonprofit or political perspective, everything goes back to raising money.

Fundraising is arguably the most critical component of anything that a nonprofit or a campaign does. If you don't raise the money, you can't operate as an organization. Coming up with unique ways of using technology to raise money is going to continue to increase.

If you're a campaign manager, you're communicating with and gleaning information from your constituents and your voters, from the data that they're giving you. It's the same thing for a nonprofit. It's about cultivating those relationships, making sure that you're collecting the important information that you need as an organization to run and to grow.

Freelance writer Vivian Wagner has wide-ranging interests, from technology and business to music and motorcycles. She writes features regularly for ECT News Network, and her work has also appeared in American Profile, Bluegrass Unlimited, and many other publications. For more about her, visit her website. You can also connect with Vivian on Google+.

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