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Building your own CRM is risky and likely to cost you more in the long run, writes Charitylog CEO Matt Dyer

You’ve heard about all the benefits a CRM could bring to your charity, and you’ve decided to buy one.

But you’re not bothered about bells and whistles; you just want something that does the job. And you can’t afford to spend much.

Then someone you know – maybe it’s an employee, a trustee or a friend-of-a-friend who used to work in IT – offers to build it for you. This seems like a great idea. After all, you not only get a cheap bespoke system, but your tech-savvy colleague/trustee/friend-of-a-friend can fix it if it breaks.

It’s win-win. Right?

Don’t be too sure.

Why the DIY approach could be a disaster waiting to happen

1. New software is always late

Projects usually take longer than expected, new requirements get added, complexity creeps in and that go-live date slips further and further away. Many books have been written on this phenomenon; the most famous is Fred Brooks’ The Mythical Man-Month.

2. Your system is only as robust as its weakest part

That old server in your cupboard is probably best left to basic file-sharing duties, not running a complex application full of sensitive data.

3. Building and running a CRM calls for specialist IT skills

Is the person you’ve asked to deliver your CRM a coder, software developer, or software engineer? Basic coding can be taught in a few hours. Learning the skills to create and maintain a fully functional application takes years of training.

4. You may struggle to meet modern data protection requirements

Commissioners are increasingly asking challenging questions about the safety of your data. GDPR, pen tests, secure SDLC, the list goes on. Meeting these strict requirements on your own will be hard, time-consuming – and expensive.

5. Your system won’t stay secure without updates

The ever-present threat of cyber-criminals makes regular updates a must – especially for any organisation that stores sensitive data. Yes, most packages can be set to update automatically, but this often triggers issues elsewhere in your application. It takes a team of professional software developers to plan, test and deploy updates successfully. Do you really want to gamble with the safety of your clients’ data?

6. Running and monitoring your system in-house is likely to cost more

Even if a helpful volunteer or trustee with IT smarts has offered to run your system for free, you’ll need to factor in the internal management costs of keeping the project on-track.

7. Expect downtime. Maybe a lot of downtime

If your application is written and supported by one person, what will you do when they go on holiday or off sick, change jobs or retire? Can you afford extended periods of downtime or degraded functionality?

8. New features and infrastructure will be pricier

Chances are, in time, you'll need to modernise and build in new features or buy/replace important hardware. On your own you’ll bear 100% of the cost, rather than sharing this across a broad user base.

And finally ...

9. Putting all your eggs in one basket is never a wise move

If just one or two people hold all the knowledge about where your application is hosted, how it’s deployed, how to change API keys, reset passwords and so on, there’s a danger you may be locked out of your own system if things go wrong (ref. number 7!).

How do we know this?

Because at Charitylog we’ve helped literally dozens of charities switch over to our system after their ‘one-man-band’ developer retired or moved on.

In fact, it’s something we hear all the time from new customers.

If you were thinking of going down the DIY route, we hope this blog has convinced you not to take the risk. Far safer to choose a CRM built specifically for charities, with a team of skilled software developers and an in-house support team who are always at the other end of the phone if things go wrong.

Using a proper, cloud-based charity CRM like Charitylog might just save you a world of pain and expense in the future, while keeping your clients’ data safe.

Give us a call today for a no-obligation chat, or to arrange a free demo.

Call us on 01989 763691 or use our contact form.

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