Troubleshooting the creation of a SKYUX Addin on Windows

I just came back from BBCon in Nashville all fired up ready to create a SKY UX Addin. For those of you new to this, this can be a tile in a SKY based application i.e. Raiser’s Edge NXT (and other components are to come in the future).

I have tried this in the past without much luck. There were issues with the sky ux cli not working on my Windows machine (I am told the dev team use mainly Macs). Fast forward a few years and I thought that I would give it a go.

Before I start, I just wanted to say that the documentation that Blackbaud have produced for all aspects of the SKY developer platform is really very good. It is so much better than anything that they have ever produced in the past. I wanted to document this in case anybody should ever run into the same difficulty. It may be that you will never have this problem (especially if you, unlike me, actually read the prerequisites before starting!)

Configuration

I am primarily following the instructions here

However, before I can even start with that I needed to install the SKY UX sdk. This is done with the following:

npm install -g @blackbaud/skyux-cli

npm install -g @skyux-sdk/cli (thanks Ben Lambert for setting me straight!)

I then followed the instructions in the main article. I fired up Visual Studio Code, started a terminal window and went into my project directory.

skyux new -t addin

This was where the process failed for the first time. I got the error:

 addin template successfully cloned.
Setting @blackbaud/skyux version 2.54.1
Setting @blackbaud/skyux-builder version 1.36.0
× Running npm install (can take several minutes)
npm install failed.

Following this I ran a verbose version of this

skyux new -t addin --logLevel verbose

This gave me much more information. It told me that python was not installed on my system so it could not work.

I ran the following to install python. However this was not all plain sailing either… I ran this from an command prompt run as Administrator

npm install --global --production windows-build-tools

This first time this ran it told me that Python was installed successfully but then it just sat there for a while. Task manager told me that the command prompt was doing something but nothing happened on the screen. I waited for at least half an hour. The command prompt no longer appear to be working hard (according to task manager) so I broke out of the process (CTRL+C). I ran the same process again and it worked very quickly returning me back to the command prompt.

I then ran the skyux new command again and everything appeared to install.

Serving up the application

The next step according to the instructions was to “serve” the application. There is one, probably obvious step, that is missing from the instructions. In Visual Studio Code you need to open the folder where your project has been install. When you first open VSC assuming that no previous workspace or folder has been opened (I had closed mine) all you have is the welcome page. Click on the open folder button to show your app in the folder structure.

You can then use serve the app:

skyux serve -l local

Introducing Chimpegration Cloud for BBCRM

Do you use Mailchimp? Or even if you use another email marketing tool what is your process?

After writing and rewriting the text, designing and redesigning the layout, adding graphics, seeking feedback and finally sending out one of the greatest appeals you have ever done, you wait for the responses.

Of course the best type of response is the donations that come flooding in but the other kind, the ones that count towards determining your constituent segments and who to target in the future, also arrive. Every bounce, unsubscribe, open and click helps you to work out who is going to become that next major donor and who does not want to hear from you again (maybe your choice of dancing cats in the appeal email should be revisited the next time around!)

You pull up a report in Mailchimp and painstakingly update BBCRM with those unsubscribes and bounces; do you really have time to add the numerous clicks too?

With Chimpegration Cloud, you set up your process to retrieve different results. Track your opens and clicks by adding interactions. Mark your constituents as ‘do not contact’ or add an attribute if they unsubscribe. Set the email to an invalid email address for bounces or go crazy and do any combination of the above.

You can also export your records to Mailchimp to start with. Set up a query and push the constituents out to Mailchimp.

You can do all of this as a one off or you can set up a schedule so that it runs at night with everything ready for you when you walk through the office door the next day.

Q. What could be better than scheduling a process?

(That was a rhetorical question I wasn’t expecting anybody to put their hand up.)

A. Real-time processing. What does that mean? Simple. You set up an action so that as soon as a constituent subscribes, bounces or unsubscribes it feeds directly into BBCRM!

This is just the beginning. We are constantly updating the application and adding new features. Look out for import soon.

If you are interested (and who wouldn’t be if you have managed to read this far) then why not take a two week trial or get in touch to ask us a question.

Introducing Chimpegration Cloud for Altru

Do you use Mailchimp? Or even if you use another email marketing tool what is your process?

After writing and rewriting the text, designing and redesigning the layout, adding graphics, seeking feedback and finally sending out one of the greatest appeals you have ever done, you wait for the responses.

Of course the best type of response is the donations that come flooding in but the other kind, the ones that count towards determining your constituent segments and who to target in the future, also arrive. Every bounce, unsubscribe, open and click helps you to work out who is going to become that next major donor and who does not want to hear from you again (maybe your choice of dancing cats in the appeal email should be revisited the next time around!)

You pull up a report in Mailchimp and painstakingly update Altru with those unsubscribes and bounces; do you really have time to add the numerous clicks too?

With Chimpegration Cloud, you set up your process to retrieve different results. Track your opens and clicks by adding interactions. Mark your constituents as ‘do not contact’ or add an attribute if they unsubscribe. Set the email to an invalid email address for bounces or go crazy and do any combination of the above.

You can also export your records to Mailchimp to start with. Set up a query and push the constituents out to Mailchimp.

You can do all of this as a one off or you can set up a schedule so that it runs at night with everything ready for you when you walk through the office door the next day.

Q. What could be better than scheduling a process?

(That was a rhetorical question I wasn’t expecting anybody to put their hand up.)

A. Real-time processing. What does that mean? Simple. You set up an action so that as soon as a constituent subscribes, bounces or unsubscribes it feeds directly into Altru!

This is just the beginning. We are constantly updating the application and adding new features. Look out for import soon.

If you are interested (and who wouldn’t be if you have managed to read this far) then why not take a two week trial or get in touch to ask us a question.

Introducing Chimpegration Cloud for Raiser’s Edge NXT

When NXT was announced at BBCon 2014 there was some initial confusion as to what it would mean for Raiser’s Edge users. I have to be honest, at the time I was underwhelmed. I could see the logic of moving gradually to the cloud but it wasn’t exciting. As the years have gone by and NXT has matured and developed I have begun to see the benefits.

Of course DBAs still spend a lot of time in the traditional database view and there is a lot of impatience for NXT to catch up so that the web view goodness is delivered to those who are heavily involved with Raiser’s Edge.

As developers we have had high hopes for the web based API. All of a sudden we could break out of the plugins area and develop Chimpegration’s potential.

Chimpegration Cloud follows a similar pattern to Raiser’s Edge NXT. Some features are found in the database view plugin and also found in the web Cloud version. However where Chimpegration Cloud shines is with the new possibilities available.

Up until now it has only been possible to schedule processes with on-premise installations of Chimpegration. As standard, it is now possible to collect bounces, unsubscribes, opens, clicks and more on a regular basis. Set it up and let it run. Have it run at night so that the results are ready for when you arrive in the office in the morning. Or sit with your coffee and be mesmerised as the number of processed records increases.

Q. What could be better than scheduling a process?
(That was a rhetorical question I wasn’t expecting anybody to put their hand up)

A. Real-time processing. What does that mean? Simple. You set up an action so that as soon as a constituent subscribes, bounces or unsubscribes it feeds directly into RE!

This is just the beginning. Chimpegration Cloud is waiting for the SKY API to catch up! We want to offer exports (the functionality is in place for Altru and BBCRM so come on SKY API team give us data export!) and we are working on import.

We are the masters of our own destiny servers. This means that if we see that processing is going slowly we can ramp up the power. You no longer have to share your Chimpegration processing power with others.

If you are interested (and who wouldn’t be if you have managed to read this far) then why not take a two week trial or get in touch to ask us a question.

Creating a Donation Form through SKY API into Raiser’s Edge NXT – Part 3 (Server back end)






This follows on from the second part of my guide to creating a donation from through SKY API…

The source code for this and the other parts of this series is available on Github.

In this part we are going to actually doing something with the donor details and their credit card.

We are using .NET on our server. You could use any language to do this but I am mostly familiar with working with .NET. I am going to assume here that you are either familiar with .NET or you are able to translate the concepts into your own language.

I created a new project in Visual Studio 2017. I chose an ASP.NET Web Application and selected the WebAPI option without authentication.  I added a new controller to my project – “Web API 2 Controller – Empty” called DonationController.

Continue reading Creating a Donation Form through SKY API into Raiser’s Edge NXT – Part 3 (Server back end)






Creating a Donation Form through SKY API into Raiser’s Edge NXT – Part 2 (Web front end)






This follows on from the first part of my guide to creating a donation from through SKY API…

The source code for this and the other parts of this series is available on Github.

Now we are going to focus on the web page that captures the donation.

We are going to show the minimum here. You will want to include data validation to ensure that the incoming data is valid. You will also want some form of security to ensure that you don’t end up sending a lot of spam into your Raiser’s Edge.

On this page we are making use of some simple html, some javascript and the Stripe Checkout API which makes an easy and PCI compliant way of capturing a credit card.

OK, Let’s begin!

Continue reading Creating a Donation Form through SKY API into Raiser’s Edge NXT – Part 2 (Web front end)






Creating a Donation Form through SKY API into Raiser’s Edge NXT – Part 1 (Overview)






This post is in response to a thread on the Raiser’s Edge User Group Support Forum on Facebook. If you are not already a member then I can highly recommend it. There are some very talented individuals there who have been using Raiser’s Edge for a long time and have a wealth of experience!

The question asked was whether anybody had created a donation form on a website which would capture information and send it through to RE NXT.

There are a number of different possibilities here. You could create a complex web application that captures donations like ones that are already commercially available e.g. Classy, Crowdrise, OneCause, FunRaise, 4AGoodCause, WeDidIt, MobileCause, FundRazr, etc to name a few to name the ones that Importacular currently integrates with. From an end user perspective these have a lot of functionality that makes donating an easier experience.

Continue reading Creating a Donation Form through SKY API into Raiser’s Edge NXT – Part 1 (Overview)






Name Splitting in Importacular






Every so often we get a support question from a user asking us how they can import data like the following that appears in one Excel column:

“Dr David A Zeidman PhD”

We have invariably told them that this is very difficult to manage and that they would have to manually break up the one column into the 5 separate components (title, first name, middle name, last name and suffix) so that they could map them.

With Importacular 3.5 (available now for self-hosted organizations and coming within an indeterminate period of time for Blackbaud hosted users) you are able import combined fields like this.

The new constituent area settings allows you to split one field on your incoming file or data source into parts. The logic takes into consideration common titles, first name and last name (taken from US survey data) as well as suffixes. It also handles multi-word last names e.g. Von Trap or De La Fuente.

What is the best part of this? There is absolutely no extra cost to use this feature. It is included as standard irrespective of whether you have purchased any other data sources.

Download the latest version of Importacular now!






GDPR and Consent in Raiser’s Edge






I have been really busy of late. While many an EU non-profit have been kept awake at night because of GDPR, I have not quite been kept awake but nevertheless been very involved in implementing GDPR into our products. This has taken the form of the new consent module.

If you are not in the EU or otherwise not on the latest version of RE7 then you may wonder what I am talking about when I mention the new consent module. I am not going to go into too much detail here as Blackbaud have some good resources that cover it here.

What I will say is that the implementation of consent is very different from many other modules in RE. Luckily there is less and less scope for RE7 API developers as Blackbaud moves towards NXT and expands the REST based SKY API. So I am wondering if as, a last challenge towards those remaining in the RE7 API game (myself included), Blackbaud decided to make the new consent module even less consistent than previous modules.

Here are a few of its features:

  • The consent collection cannot be found within the regular BBREAPI assembly. You have to look elsewhere for it.
  • It does not save alongside the rest of the constituent records but has its own save routines. What this also means is that the VBA events are not fired when a consent record is saved.
  • In the first release it does not cause an exception when you do not supply a valid combination of channel and category as it does in the UI but if you are really clever (or decipher the sample code), you can determine how to do your own validation.

Now I should not be too harsh on the BB developers. Introducing a new module like this is extremely difficult. There are so many intertwined areas that must be accounted for and I am sure that the design decisions were taken for a reason. (One of which being that it is much easier this way to work with very many consent records if they are a standalone entity)

How are we updating our applications to work with the consent module?

Audit Trail:

As you would expect changes made on consent records will be tracked but because consent records are saved as a standalone entity they will only be saved if the constituent record is also saved afterwards.

Validatrix:

This is a tricky one. We have included consent records as part of Validatrix but because they are a standalone entity and are open and saved in their own rights, they do not fire the VBA events that tell Validatrix to prevent a save. That means that a user can add a consent record and shut the constituent without saving the constituent. You cannot therefore have a consent record as the primary criteria. However, if you have the consent record as a dependency of a constituent based field then it will be included in the criteria when you save the constituent.

Importacular:

As you would expect, Importacular allows you to import consent records. You can match on any combination of channel, category, date, response and source to ensure that you are not creating duplicate consent records (although by default it matches on channel, category, date and response).

Chimpegration:

This is perhaps our most ambitious development. Until Blackbaud add consent information to query and export you are not able to export consent records to MailChimp. However it is probably more useful to export the outcome of the consent records i.e. solicit codes which show you a good picture of a constituent’s intentions.

On managing campaigns you can add a consent record based on the action i.e. if a subscriber unsubscribes you may want to add a consent record.

Sync is where the most complex piece of development occurs. We allow you to map individual groups and group items to the addition of different types of consent records. Equally when specific solicit codes are added (in response to consent records being added previously) these can be mapped to group items. We have a longer description of this on our knowledgebase.

When is this available? Importacular, Audit Trail and Validatrix are already live. Chimpegration is live for self-hosted and will go live in the near future for hosted organisations.






Moving over to SKY API






This blog has mainly consisted of the COM based RE7 API and my musings of all things Blackbaud related. I am sure that the latter will no doubt continue but I have realised for a while now that as time goes on the RE7 API is becoming less and less relevant (although not entirely so) and that there is a natural progression towards the SKY API.

In general there is probably less to be said about SKY API. Firstly Blackbaud have been doing a much better job at documenting it than they ever did with the RE7 API. They are also putting a lot more thought into it so that there are far fewer inconsistencies (so far at least) than there ever were with the RE7 API. Where there are difficult, new, areas they have written up good documentation or blog posts to explain. In short they have made my job here somewhat redundant… Well thanks a lot Blackbaud!

Actually, yes, thank you. I would much rather a clean usable API than one where I have to write up blog posts explaining how to do things. I am sure that there will be moments but there will quite possibly be fewer of them.

One topic that I think deserves some discussion though is the porting of existing functionality from RE7 to SKY. Those of us that have products written for RE7 are keen to see the functionality available on SKY in order that we can port the solutions over.

I have been very keen to transfer Chimpegration but one of the stumbling blocks has been the lack of bulk data processing on SKY. Specifically the ability to return filtered lists of constituents. On many platforms this means simply specifying a last data changed or a keyword search. On RE7 though it is possible to make use of a query to retrieve that information. The user would themselves set up the criteria in the query and the application would allow the user to select that query.

There is some discussion on the SKY API forums about how imperative it is that this be ported over to SKY and that we should be allowed to once again select an existing query.

Despite really needing this functionality for Chimpegration, I am not convinced that this is the best course of action for SKY. This new API should embrace a general approach to this problem. It cannot be based on RE7’s query module. There is definitely a need to generate lists based on complex filters and criteria and that should be exposed somehow to the developer community but to simply port the existing RE7 functionality to SKY would be short-sighted and not take into consideration the other applications what will one day make use of the same API. I want an API that will work with RE, BBCRM, ETap and others. To simply port queries to SKY would confuse the issue and make for an API that is not consistent.