Top Qualities in a Great CRM/Salesforce Administrator

This post by Tracy Kronzak was first published on the Heller Consulting website. This post is one of our favorites on the Salesforce administrator topic. Heller Consulting has graciously granted us permission to repost it here.

If you want your nonprofit’s Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) system to function at its best, you need a good set of eyes and hands managing it. A CRM Administrator is crucial for the success of your database.

Almost daily, nonprofits ask us to provide advice and insight about this valuable position. We’re sharing our top tips — drawn from our 16 years of experience working with over 800 nonprofits. Our goals: to give you an understanding of the top qualities of a CRM Administrator and raise the level of expectations for this often under-valued position.

A few trends we’ve noticed in the last few years:

  • The demands of the nonprofit sector require more from a CRM Administrator or Database Administrator than they have in the past.  The world of nonprofit data management has shifted radically over the past 10 years, and will continue to do so. Your CRM administrator will engage in activities across the organization to support this shift.
  • The functions this position takes on are going to be governed more by overall organizational goals, even when working with a single database within a single department, than they have in the past.

Top qualities to look for in a CRM Administrator:

When looking for a CRM Administrator, keep in mind that database skills can be acquired, but an interest in fundraising or mission management, a customer-service approach to serving colleagues, and good communication skills can be harder to develop and often are more valuable. Since it also can be difficult to find people with prior database experience, consider looking for candidates that can demonstrate the following traits, and then give them the support and resources necessary to develop the skills your organization needs:

  • Loves database work and the nonprofit sector. You need someone who is truly passionate about technology work and the nonprofit sector.
  • Resourceful. These are people who often teach themselves how to do something. They search blogs, Twitter, user forums, help guides, etc. They are constantly learning and thinking innovatively.
  • Flexible. This person should be willing to grow and change as your organization changes. Your CRM use likely will expand, and this person needs to grow with it.
  • Communication and training skills. This role is “user facing.” This person needs to understand what a user is trying to do and reach out to them at their level. The more your Administrator understands the business needs of users, the more successful your CRM system will be.
  • Commitment to success. This person must be committed to the success of your entire organization, not just his or her boss or a specific department. This is a team-oriented position.
  • Understanding of principles and strategies in philanthropy and nonprofit accounting. While we have seen people learn these, they tend to be difficult for people coming from a completely different industry.
  • General knowledge of Microsoft Office Suite (Word, Excel, Outlook) or Google Apps, if your organization uses them.
  • Experience moving projects forward rather than just responding to crises. While keeping things running smoothly is important, you want your CRM system to evolve as the organization changes. It’s important that this person sees opportunities for growth and understands how to make those changes happen.

We’re not suggesting that your organization should hire someone with no database experience at all — just that specific CRM experience shouldn’t be the only factor in your hiring decision. We’ve found that many of the above characteristics have been critical to our clients’ success.