CRM’s and the Cloud

CRM’s and the Cloud

There is a lot of worry and uncertainty about the upcoming GDPR changes for those in the third sector. Grace took part in a short seminar on Clouds and CRMs hosted by SCVO. Here are her thoughts.

I must admit to being worried that I wouldn’t understand most of the seminar, but I needn’t have worried. It was a really useful overview into how others in the sector have chosen to set up their systems. The impetus for some has been GDPR, but actually having good systems in place is the absolute fundamental good practice for all organisations, regardless of size or goals.

What on earth are CRM’s?

A CRM is a ‘customer relationship management’ system. This is basically a high tech term for how we collect, input, store and use information about our services users. At its simplest, it could be a volunteer receptionist taking a phone call about a counselling appointment, adding that person into ‘the system’ (e.g. an excel file waiting list), the counsellor collecting the necessary paper forms and the manual input of those forms somewhere to store ‘data’ for later use e.g. phone number in case of cancellation. Every process, however simple, will have a system attached, and getting this right is crucial.

And the cloud?

The ‘cloud’ is basically how separate users of the same organisation will share information collectively. Clouds works well for those small organisations with many users working on an ‘outreach’ basis. For larger, private organisations, it used to be common to buy servers and equipment (which would sit in the building where all the staff were) and upgrade licenses as required. Nowadays, flexible working has changed the dynamic. If you have an iPhone you will probably be aware of the terminology already. Here at the forum, we work using a free GSuites charity cloud (which most charities will be eligible for). In essence, it means that wherever Stephanie-Anne and I happen to be working from, we can sign securely into the cloud remotely to access and store our work.

The SCVO seminar was live-streamed and can be accessed here: SVCO Cloud & CRMs  if you’d like to view it. I’ve taken some short notes which you might find useful, below. There was a good case study from a charity organisation who had replaced their CRM recently (LifeLink, Glasgow).

Top 12 things to think about when it comes to Clouds

  1. Where is your data?
  2. Physical equipment i.e. servers is less secure than the cloud
  3. Gsuites are free to use for not for profits
  4. If you have physical equipment – how do you recover a backup in the case of damage? This is where the cloud option is more reliable
  5. Consider backing up somewhere else if important enough e.g. another cloud
  6. Cloud updates happen regularly and automatically – much less likely to need an IT person around
  7. Office 365 is free
  8. The ability to work from home / flexible working could work wonders for your organisation
  9. Read the trust statements if you are feeling unsure
  10. A good internet connection is a must
  11. Resist having multiple systems. Keep things simple. E.g. one place and one method to store files. The ‘how; doesn’t really matter as long as it is consistent.
  12. Remember to buy virus software


Lifelink had recently changed their CRM. In brief, they moved from an onerous paper based system requiring lots of manual data entry; to one where staff were completing forms via ipads, which freed up valuable admin time.

They  wanted a new CRM to support this. Their in house IT was limited as was their budget. They struggled with the terminology and the process took much longer than they thought. What was interesting was that they thought they had managed to engage with relevant stakeholders but then found some were very resistant to the  change. So in hindsight, they wished they had spent longer in the beginning with the users of the system to get more feedback and share how they thought the new system would work. They thought it was important not to make assumptions, have clarity in the process, to remember that a big initial input will be to your benefit in the long term and lastly, to share that the process has taken them double the time they expected, and then some more, to bed in.

We will be running GDPR specific workshops throughout 2018 for members of the Forum. If you have any questions, please drop me an email:



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