Hi, we’re Kerv Digital and Hart Square have asked us to talk about something called Design Thinking with you, in particular, how it can help you make the right decisions when it comes to choosing, buying, designing or just improving on your next Non-Profit CRM.

We guess that leaves you with two questions… “who are Kerv Digital” and “what on earth is Design Thinking”?

Let’s get the important one out the way first…

Who are Kerv Digital?

Kerv Digital, based in the UK with an international client base, is part of the wider Kerv Group, and specialises in digital transformations, bespoke software development and process automation in the cloud for organisations such as The British Red Cross, Water Aid, the RNLI and many, many more.

What’s Design Thinking?

So, on to the reason you clicked on this article.

What is Design Thinking?

We know it might sound like another fad or trend that gets touted around by tech companies every so often as an excuse to charge you more money. This time however it might save you some!

There’s been a lot of noise around design thinking in recent years in sectors wholly unrelated to either tech or Non-Profit’s… especially when it comes to designing CRMS’s.

A multitude of organisations have used Design Thinking to inform their decision-making processes around CRM design, implementing it into their purchasing and growth processes for a huge boost in both money and their organisations long time goals (it’s not always about the bottom line!)


First things first, you don’t need to be a tech geek (or any kind of geek really) to benefit from Design Thinking.

At its core, Design Thinking is about a shift in culture, a shift in the way organisation thinks or act. It means adopting what’s known as an end-user approach to all your processes… especially however, those involved with your CRM.

Any question or decision about your end solution CRM should, from start to finish, consider the end-user.

Does this benefit them? Does it make their lives easier? Does it make it easier for them to collate donations or run events?


Then why are we doing it…?


It’s not quite as simple as that but that’s where a Design Thinking culture needs to start. Design Thinking needs to be baked into a Non-Profits culture, with a series of processes that both empower and guide decision makers on all new projects., both practical and creative.


Whilst Design Thinking origins may lay with the tech sector, relying on many of the practices and processes developed there, in recent years it’s exploded out into other sectors looking for a more end-user / customer focused way of thinking.

As we’ve pointed out, it’s massively user centric, placing people and their needs at the heart of any solution with the goal of truly understanding, not what they may want, but what they really need.

It encourages designers (and by default the wider organisation) to, at every stage of the process, imagine not just why the end solution will be used, but how.

The ultimate goal being to take solutions that look good at ideation stage and see them through to a reality where all stakeholders are happy.

Why Do Non-Profit CRM Projects Have To Be So Hard?

Whether it’s choosing a new CRM or adding functionality to a legacy one, one of the most common problems Kerv Digital sees in Non-Profit legacy CRM’s is the fragmented approach that led to that solution and a lack of communication between decision makers and end-users.

Whilst a lot of c-suite executives think they now how their organisation is run, the truth is the ground floor staff using the CRM almost always use it differently, with work arounds, add-ons  and other such short cuts designed to make their lives easier.

If those processes are ignored then the adoption of a new CRM will almost always fail, as staff revert back to their old habits and work arounds.

Design Thinking methodology teaches the true path to success lies in bringing along the hearts and minds of the end-users.

No one wants to spend half a million on a new CRM, only to find Simon in payroll keeps using his excel spreadsheets as he doesn’t ‘trust’ the new-fangled system that’s just been installed!

A Design Thinking led approach starts out from a different perspective, asking what Simon in payroll and other end-users like him will be using the software for and what does it need to be able to do to make their lives easier.

It doesn’t just focus on the tech aspect of the project… in fact that almost always comes last. The focus instead is placed on the end-users needs (alongside the organisations needs of course).

The Four Principles Of Design Thinking

  • The Human Rule: Whilst we’re discussing Non-Profit CRM’s here in particular, when it comes to Design Thinking, no matter the project, all design should be considered from a user-centric point-of-view.
  • The Ambiguity Rule – Ambiguity is, unfortunately, a natural part of any project, with ideas never passing infallibly from one person to the next. That being said, all attempts should be made to keep this to a minimum.
  • The Re-Design Rule: Let’s face it, all design is re-design in the end. The tech, environment or platform might change but what end-suers require is going to remain fairly stable over time. That means any designer working on a CRM project is really only re-designing the method in which one is used (hopefully in a more efficient and fulfilling way)!
  • The Tangibility Rule: This one’s important. Design ideas should be made into practical prototypes as soon as possible so real testing can be conducted by those who’ll be using them.

How To Ensure The Successes Of A CRM Project With Design Thinking…

So that’s a really brief introduction into how you can use Design Thinking when creating a Non-Profit CRM. If you’d like to learn more, Kerv Digital are always happy to speak to Non-Profits and offer a lot of our IP in the form of the NonProfit powerUp to you for free.

If not, we’ve still got a few tips up our sleeve that can really help when implementing a culture of Design Thinking…

  • Invite Everyone: Endless meetings are never popular, but Design Thinking works best when as many people as possible are involved, not just senior stakeholders. You’ll never know who has the best idea concerning your CRM unless you invite everyone!
  • Everyone’s Different… Accept It And Move On: Not everyone invited to the design and ideation phases will be creative or outspoken. Or as strategic… or technical. But that’s fine. In fact, it’s almost the whole point. Everyone involved will have a slightly different perspective and using those to create an awesome CRM is what Design Thinking is all about.
  • This Is a Safe Space. As we’ve pointed out, not all users of your CRM will be as confident as others and it’s important not to let the more outspoken users dominate the process. Creating a safety net early on is vital in ensuring everyone involved can voice their opinions without fear of ridicule or pushback.
  • It’s OK To Get It Wrong: In fact, that’s almost the entire point of the prototype phase. Design Thinking encourages redesigns based on findings, changing, fine-tuning, and perfecting an idea until everyone’s happy with it. Those redesigns don’t have to be perfect either… just as long as they’re an improvement. Keep improving and pretty soon you’ll get to perfect.