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SoLDAS (formerly Boston Women's Aid) providing support, advice and safe housing for victims of domestic abuse in rural parts of South Lincolnshire.

This Guide covers how an organisation working in domestic abuse and violence against women uses a sector specific CRM. It has relevant steps for any organisation choosing a new CRM.

Steps to working more effectively using a sector specific CRM

Using a customer relationship management system can achieve many different things. You need to be clear about what is most important to your organisation in order to choose the right one.

SoLDAS wanted to increase efficiency, by moving away from a paper based recording system. They wanted staff to be able to work remotely, and not need to carry paperwork to and from an office.

They also wanted to help team members share information about the people they support. This would help them provide better support.

They also wanted the CRM to gather data that would show patterns and trends in the issues people brought to their service, and how the service was performing.

They got the whole team together to explore individual and organisation needs.

When you move from a paper based system to a CRM, it is common for staff to have worries and concerns.

They may worry about:

  • how much time the new system will take to use

  • whether the data is secure

  • whether the people they support will want their information to be stored digitally

  • whether they will be digitally skilled enough to use it

  • whether making notes digitally during sessions will be different to paper notes - will it harm the feeling of the sessions?

  • how long the system will last before someone decides to change it again

Some of the same concerns can come up if you change from one CRM or spreadsheet system to another system. People need time to integrate changes.

SoLDAS involved their team from the beginning of the project. They gathered input on how the system would need to work. 

They also used the sessions to make sure the team understood the benefits of moving recording case details online.

If you provide a service in a sector with specific needs, it is a good idea to find out if sector specific CRMs exist. These may already be set up with features that meet your core needs.

You should compare the features and costs of these systems with other CRM’s. You may prefer to customise a different one. Or you may choose a different price point. Don’t assume the sector specific CRM will be best for you - but do include it in your comparison list.

For more about how to choose a CRM see Datawise London's guide. 

For more about choosing any new tool see NCVO’s guide.

SoLDAS chose On Track which was developed by Oasis with the Women's Aid Federation of England (WAFE). It is a bespoke CRM for anyone working in the field of domestic abuse or violence against women.

It has entry fields which match the format of nationally recognised refuge referral forms. SoLDAS use these forms to assess levels of risk in referrals.

WAFE deliver training on using the CRM.

SoLDAS found the price affordable. The software is regularly updated.

As you compare the systems you might use, find out as much as you can. 

Consider whether each one meets your highest priorities. 

Explore whether they offer features that meet needs you hadn’t considered. Is that because those are things you don’t need? Or is it because you hadn’t realised a CRM could help in that way?

Here are some methods you can use to find out about a system and its features:

  • Talk to the software provider’s sales team. Ask them to provide demonstrations of things they mention.

  • Use free trials to explore how you would configure and use a system

  • Talk to other organisations like yours. Find out how they use their CRM. Would their methods make sense for you to use or not?

Buying a CRM can be a huge decision. Take your time and get as much support as you can.

Make sure you have things in place to launch the new system. This includes:

  • The right hardware/systems that can run the system

  • Training for staff. They'll need this before they start using the system and once they've had a chance to try it.

SoLDAS found they needed to provide new computers for staff who had been using older office computers before.

They worked with WAFE on the right training programme for their staff. They broke the training up into bite size pieces and spread it out over a period of three months. This helped avoid staff becoming overwhelmed. It also gave staff time to use the system in-between training sessions.

There are 3 main ways to make sure you make the most of any CRM.

  1. Create space for staff to share ideas about using the CRM with each other. Make sure they also have a way to feedback ideas for improvement. You can pass these on to the software provider.

  2. Make sure you know when the software provider is releasing any new modules. Sometimes they won’t be relevant to you, but sometimes they may meet an additional need.

  3. Be creative in how you use the CRM and what you use it for. It may be able to support your organisation in ways you didn't expect.

SoLDAS staff share at team meetings how they use On Track for different tasks. They have a standing agenda item for it.

They collect information (demographic data) from their CRM to help with reporting to funders. Staff found this information was also useful when they moved service users between services. This became a valuable function of the CRM.

Further information

Other guides related to using a CRM or similar software:

To find out more about this Guide speak to Marie Chapman, Funding and Development Manager ([email protected]).