Introduction to CRM Automation with Zapier [Webinar]

This webinar was part of a series hosted by Jitasa, a Sidekick Solutions partner. Jitasa is an outsourced accounting and bookkeeping firm focused exclusively on nonprofits.

In nonprofit organizations, it is common for a donor management CRM to a primary application in its tech stack, but it likely isn’t the only app an organization uses day-to-day.

You might be using other apps for:

  • Fundraising
  • Email marketing
  • eCommerce
  • Accounting
  • Event management
  • Major gift cultivation and pipline
  • Emails and calendars
  • Tasks and to-dos
  • Reporting and analytics
  • …or other apps, possibly even a combination of many apps

Instead of spending hours each month manually entering data between two or more systems or running tedious spreadsheet imports, let Zapier automation do the work for you. Zapier is an automation platform that connects to 4,000+ other apps and offers an all-in-one integration platform for automating your day to day workflows.

During this webinar, you will learn:

  • Common automation opportunities for nonprofits
  • How to approach full-system automation
  • Examples of nonprofit automations
  • Why it is important to adopt a continuous improvement model for automation


Webinar transcript (not including Q&A):


I’m excited to introduce you to today’s presenter, Jessie Gilchrist.

Jessie is a Zapier Certified Expert and the Manager of CRM Services at Sidekick Solutions.

Sidekick Solutions is a software consulting firm that specializes in nonprofit system automations.

Sidekick Solutions has provided technical assistance and support for CRM software for over 10 years and is the only Zapier Certified Expert specializing in nonprofit automations.

We’re excited to have Jessie here today to share her expertise and explore how integrations can take your fundraising efforts and donor cultivation to the next level.


Hello everyone! It’s great to be here.

Many organizations say that the thought of integrating other apps with their CRM feels overwhelming or unattainable. With the right approach to technology adoption and automation, the integration of apps in your tech stack can be pain-free and result in considerable gains for your organization.

Our hope is that by the end of this webinar, you’ll see how you can approach automations across your organization and attain outcomes that drive your mission and goals.

Our webinar today will…

  • Explore common automation opportunities for nonprofits
  • Discuss how to approach full-system automation
  • Look at examples of nonprofit automations
  • Review the continuous improvement model for automation


We believe that automated integrations are essential to your donor database. There isn’t a perfect all-in-one CRM and, as a result, many organizations use other software in addition to their CRM.

While your CRM serves as your central donor database, you likely need tools for:

  • Email marketing
  • Event coordination
  • Online giving
  • Major gift pipeline
  • Volunteers
  • Accounting
  • Email and calendars
  • Tasks and to-dos
  • Peer to peer
  • Reporting and analytics
  • …and even that likely isn’t a comprehensive list.

But if all of your tools aren’t integrated, you’re left spending hours each month managing data between multiple non-integrated systems. This means dealing with spreadsheet imports or grinding out data entry tasks manually one at a time, both of which are a complete waste of time.


There are three primary opportunities for automation in nonprofits that are worth noting.

Eliminate double data entry. Most organizations have a goal of reducing double data entry; we believe it should be eliminated. By eliminating double data entry, organizations can free up time and valuable resources, refocusing on efforts that further their mission.

Strengthen reporting and improve data quality. The inability to report on desired metrics or poor data quality present unique opportunities for automation. Not only can automation be used to generate dynamic reporting capabilities beyond those presented in a CRM’s reporting utility, but the automation of data entry also improves data quality and, as a result, consistent reporting as it removes the potential for human error.

Expand capability without more human capital/resources. It is a common misconception that a small organization of 2-3 employees is too small to pursue automation. Sidekick Solutions used to be just that and we implemented automations across our organization to streamline our day-to-day operations, freeing up more time for our people to do the work that mattered most. The same is true for nonprofits. A shortage of human capital and resources is a prime opportunity to explore automation and expand the reach of its people and resources.


These opportunities for automation often lead an organization to search for a new tool that resolves the challenges it faces. But, the perfect tool typically doesn’t exist.

We often see nonprofits go out and search for a new tool and then adapt their work to fit the solution. This often leads to the “square peg and round hole” feeling.

Instead, we encourage you to focus on your mission, strategic plan, and organizational goals, allowing real use-cases to drive the adoption of new tools/apps.

Start by identifying each use case, confirming its alignment with your organizational goals, and defining the experience you want your constituents to have. Only then should you go to the marketplace to find the tool that best fits the use case and that is integration friendly.

This is where your CRM’s ability to integrate and talk to other apps comes into play.


Automations across your tech stack should be approached through a lens that keeps your CRM as the central hub of your tech stack.

Data should flow in and out of your CRM database, connecting to other best in class tools your organization uses. This ensures your CRM maintains a global record of your constituents’ engagement with your organization and centralizes reporting on constituent activity.

You can see in this illustration how some common apps could be arranged in a tech stack to flow into and out of the CRM as a central hub.


When we talk about CRM integrations, there are two types we should differentiate between: native and custom.

Native integrations, often called “direct” integrations, are built within your CRM software. These are often the most user-friendly form of integration and offer a standardized sync of data between two systems. They typically are also included in your CRM subscription. We would consider these “templated” integrations. Meaning, there is little room for customization.

The other option for integrating with a CRM is by setting up a custom integration using Zapier.

Zapier is the software that enables additional integration and fundraising opportunities. It’s a middleware that sits in between your CRM database and other apps, helping them “talk” to each other.

At this point, it is important to note that not all CRM are what we consider “integration friendly”. Some CRM are very integration friendly with a suite of native integrations and robust capabilities with Zapier, while others remain more closed to integration opportunities.

As we move through the rest of this webinar, the use cases we present may look different based on the CRM you use, its native integrations, and its ability to connect to other applications using Zapier.


This is a good place to talk about why we get so excited when we talk about Zapier integrations. Most CRM provide a handful of native integrations, but may not connect to with apps that meet your use case or the native integration is too limited. Zapier is the solution to these challenges.

There are three primary reasons custom integrations with Zapier are a value-add for your organization.

First and most important, Zapier connects to 4,000+ other apps. Any apps in Zapier’s directory can be connected with any other app in the directory.

Second, Zapier was designed for anyone to build integrations. You don’t need to know how to code to build Zaps.

Third, Zapier enables custom integrations. You aren’t limited to one-size fits all workflows, mapping, or formatting. You can build integrations that are perfect for your organization and your workflows.


Before we move on to talking about popular CRM integrations, we’d like to do a quick poll to see how many of you have integrations with your CRM currently.

Now we get to the fun part! We are going to explore a few of the most popular CRM integrations to give you a sense of the types of integrations that are possible with your CRM.


Even with prebuilt online forms in most and fundraising modules in some CRM, many organizations are turning to other fundraising apps for more robust functionality and in order to pursue the desired experience for their donors. Whether this be a donor portal, peer to peer fundraising, online forms with better design/graphics, or crowdfunding, fundraising apps can provide a suite of tools and functionality beyond what is available in a CRM.

Without integration, organizations face manual data entry or timely imports to get data from the fundraising app in their CRM.


Zapier-enabled integration between a fundraising app and your CRM supports a real-time sync of donors and donations (one-time and recurring). This sync can be simple or complex, based on your organization’s use case.

In addition to finding (or creating) a constituent and creating a transaction in your CRM, the solution is typically designed to dynamically code key transaction fields based on the campaign in the fundraising app. This dynamic coding is key to ensuring the solution is scalable as new campaign pages are created in your fundraising app.

By syncing donation activity from an outside fundraising app to your CRM, you can centralize reporting and see a full picture of constituent engagement in a single platform. This not only supports revenue reporting, but also segmentation for future solicitation efforts.


Although most CRM have a mass email feature, many users send email campaigns through a third-party email marketing platform like Mailchimp, and syncing lists between a CRM and an email marketing tool can be a real hassle.

We find that organizations either manually enter data back and forth, run weekly or monthly imports, or keep the two lists exclusive and separate. All of these options are inefficient, so the goal with an integration is to make email marketing efforts more efficient, more timely, and more targeted.

Zapier-enabled integration between a CRM and email marketing tool offers a broad canvas of options for syncing data between these systems. We are going to illustrate this type of integration using Mailchimp as the email marketing tool, but similar workflows could be designed with most email marketing tools


CRM to Email Marketing

  • Send accounts with emails in CRM to Mailchimp as subscribers. This is what we would call basic list sync.
  • Send accounts in CRM to Mailchimp with groups, tags, and custom fields for sending one-off campaigns. This keeps your data up to date in real-time so you can log into Mailchimp and send one-off campaigns efficiently with no need to scrub the data.
  • Send accounts in CRM to Mailchimp with groups, tags, and custom fields for enrollment in automated campaigns. This option gives you all the tools needed to run automated drip campaigns to your constituents with segmentation.


Here are a few ideas for automated email campaigns.

  • Add new donors to a 6-month drip campaign
  • Send automated birthday notifications to donors
  • Send automated lapsed donor reminders annually
  • Follow up on membership renewal dates automatically
  • …and that is just the tip of the iceberg.


In addition to integrations from your CRM to your email marketing tool, you can also integrate from your email marketing tool back to your CRM.

  • Send new subscribers in Mailchimp to CRM as a constituent account
  • Log unsubscribes in Mailchimp as activities or notes in CRM
  • Log preference changes in Mailchimp as updates to the constituent in CRM
  • Send, open, and click data are not options to sync using Zapier but there are simple ways to run attribution reporting between Mailchimp and your CRM if you want to dig into multi-channel constituent engagement. The backbone of that reporting still starts with list management and segment automation.

Efficiency and scale are the primary benefits of this integration…

  • No more updating data manually between both systems or dealing with imports
  • Ability to scale your email marketing efforts with automated campaigns
  • Ability to segment subscribers automatically and accurately for targeted campaigns


The methods of online fundraising employed by nonprofits are changing. Beyond simple online donation forms, we are seeing more organizations explore peer to peer fundraising, crowdfunding, birthday campaigns, eCards, and more. Online shops are a part of this expansion.

Whether you are selling tangible or intangible products, an online store is a great way to boost your online giving experience beyond a simple donation form. Shopify is a great option because it provides the best in ecommerce functionality and a fully customizable look and feel.

Without integration you are stuck wondering how to get transaction data into your CRM for purchases made in Shopify. This is especially true if you need to sync purchase data with your CRM and accounting. Even more challenging if you log shipping, tax, and item prices in your CRM to account for each type of revenue. The data gets too dense to manage manually and friction generally ensues.


Zapier-enabled integration can automatically create constituents and transactions in your CRM for new orders in Shopify. This is done in near real-time and the number of transactions entered in your CRM depends on your preference for mapping the data.

Since a purchaser could select more than one item per order, we can typically create a single transaction per order (with splits for each line item) or create one transaction per item purchased.

Zapier-enabled Shopify integrations can account for Shipping, Tax, Discounts, multi-item, single item, and custom mapping to any field set in your CRM on the constituent and transaction.

You can…

  • Write granular item detail AND report on total revenue per constituent across all transactions
  • Use scalable mapping so that additions to product list flow through your CRM dynamically
  • Upgrade your online giving experience by selling physical, digital, or symbolic products


Integration with an accounting system is one of the most requested integrations. The goal of an integration with an accounting system is based on a single goal: sync transactions so that development and accounting are on the same page.

We are going to explore this use case through the lens of QuickBooks Online, the most requested accounting integration.

Clients come to us frustrated with double data entry and the inability to reconcile revenue in their CRM with finance income totals. Without integration, we are left with few options and none are ideal.

  • Entering data in their CRM first and then manually entering the same data into QuickBooks Online (that’s what we call “double data entry”)
  • Enter data in their CRM and then exporting data to Excel to then be imported into QuickBooks Online daily, weekly, or monthly
  • Run a report from their CRM to calculate deposit totals and then manually enter deposits into QuickBooks Online

Automated integration is a must-have for the connection between a CRM and accounting.


Each step in this automation is configured in Zapier starting with a trigger and then proceeding with a series of actions to complete the data entry task into QuickBooks Online.

The workflow starts when a new revenue transaction is created in the CRM. Then, the workflow proceeds through a series of steps to find or create) a customer in QuickBooks Online and create a sales receipt. This workflow is dynamic and often includes conversion steps that convert transaction coding in the CRM to the appropriate Product/Service and Class in QuickBooks Online.

By default sales receipts added to QuickBooks Online go to the Undeposited Funds asset account awaiting deposit. At which point, when you’re ready to make a deposit, you can select sales receipts to deposit, subtract any fees deducted from payment processors, and now your deposits will reconcile with your bank statements every month.

With this integration…

  • There is no more double data entry, sync in real time
  • Map any field from your CRM to Product/Service and Class, not limited to a cookie cutter setup
  • Deposit and statement reconciliations are faster and easier
  • Reporting can be run immediately from both systems
  • Accounting and development will have the same data


The last use case we want to showcase is building dynamic reporting dashboards in Google Sheets. Zapier-enabled integrations with Google Sheets run in real time. A Zap is triggered when data is entered in your CRM, pushing the data through to your Google Sheet and allowing for advanced reporting, visualizations of the data, and expanded access for team members.


You may be asking why an organization would want to automate the generation of lists and directories in Google Sheets when you can run reports in your CRM. This type of automation is typically pursued when…

  • Non-CRM users need access to data without a login
  • You need up-to-date lists in “real-time”
  • It is time efficient to have a real-time list instead of running a report
  • You need advanced reporting beyond CRM capabilities
  • The possibilities for generating dynamic dashboards in Google Sheets are extensive. Let’s look at a few examples.


The first is a Fund Activity dashboard. The dashboard will show the total raised for each Fund and the progress toward a goal. Additionally, the Fund Activity dashboard can go one step further and include the number of donations and progress toward a goal for this metric. A similar dynamic dashboard can be developed to track goal progress for Campaigns, Appeals, or other gift segmentation fields in your CRM.


Some CRM come pre-built with functionality to support the identification and cultivation of major gift opportunities. Others do not. If this is not a pre-built module in your CRM, custom fields can typically be configured and paired with a GSheet dashboard to track your major gift pipeline.


The last example is a dashboard to visualize task activity in a CRM. This is a great dashboard if you want to see visualizations of activities your team is taking in your CRM.


The use cases we’ve touched on are just the surface. Other use cases nonprofits are exploring include…

  • Eventbrite attendee registration and attendance — Syncing this data to your CRM will enable you to report on who registered but didn’t attend, as well as who is attending events but not donating.
  • Searchable member directory with AirTable — Some membership programs publish a directory for members on a periodic basis. By utilizing a tool like AirTable, this can be automated and produce an electronic directory, saving the organization time and resources in publishing and printing a physical directory.
  • Video acknowledgments (e.g. Bonjoro) — Some organizations want a more “human” element to acknowledgements and adopt a video acknowledgement tool to send personalized thank yous following certain types of donations.
  • Online data collection forms — Organizations that offer a variety of programs often adopt an online form tool with more robust functionality than a CRM’s native forms to deploy forms with more robust design features and conditional logic to streamline the user’s experience.
  • Major gift pipeline in sales CRM or GSheet dashboard — Many donor management CRM are not designed to assist nonprofits in cultivating major gifts. Therefore, it is not uncommon for an organization to also use a sales CRM to help cultivate major gifts. Alternatively, if an organization does not want to use a sales CRM, custom fields in a donor management CRM can often be designed and integrated with a GSheet dashboard to provide visibility and management of an organization’s major gift pipeline.


To wrap up today’s presentation, we’ll leave you with a few thoughts on the power of integrations with your CRM and the journey of attaining full-system automation.

When we think about full-system automation, it’s helpful to think of it as stacking bricks. Once you have one automation in place, you level-up to the next layer, and so on.

The graphic on the screen, while it may look a bit complex, is illustrating this approach.

The journey to full-system automation is never over. As more use cases require automation or other apps are added to your organization’s tech stack, you will need to continue improving and expanding the solutions integrated with your CRM.


We believe your CRM should be your central system and integrations should supplement your database. Automation should start from a lens that your CRM is core to your donor management and fundraising technology.

Native integrations and custom automation using Zapier supplement and extend the power of your CRM. They don’t replace it. By automating tasks and the flow of data between apps your organization uses day to day, you can save time, resources, energy, and more. Spend less time performing data entry and more time focusing on your mission and cultivating donors.


Thank you for attending today. It has been my pleasure sharing about the path to full-system automation and hope it has inspired you to explore how integration could help your organization.

We are going to launch a poll. If you’d like to work with a consultant to set up an integration or explore your use case and tech stack, please let us know.


Again, my name is Jessie Gilchrist. My email is here and my door is always open.

Now, we’d like to open it up for questions.

Free Download


  • 5 automation use cases that save time
  • Integration ideas for top apps like Eventbrite, Mailchimp, and Gmail
  • New ways to think about your Bloomerang experience

Join the Bloomerang users that already got their playbook!