Category Archives: Not Code

What Blackbaud needs to to do to convince the world of its enterprise software

I was in discussion with Ivan Wainwright recently about Blackbaud CRM and its competitors in the enterprise sized non-profit sector. It would seem that despite being around for a long time Blackbaud CRM has not made as much ground as those of us watching thought it would do. At least that is the case in the UK. It appears to have achieved more in the US.

The obvious competition comes from Salesforce.com and from Microsoft Dynamics. (There are plenty of smaller applications that suit many non-profits but this article is only considering the largest).
This is not a comparative blog. I am not going to analyse the differences down to the last detail. There are others that are much better qualified than I. At the time of writing I am too wedded to Blackbaud to be sufficiently objective. However there are some very good reasons why the competitors will be chosen over Blackbaud CRM.

Both Salesforce and Dynamics have very large for-profit user bases. This means that if there is a problem with the product due to a missing feature it will likely be developed by a third party in response. These users stem mainly from the commercial world meaning that there is less of a non-profit focus and the products evolve less in that direction. That being said there are more and more companies that skin Salesforce and Dynamics for non-profits giving them the missing functionality. Are they any good? In my mind the jury is still out.

These smaller companies that adapt, implement and add extra layers onto Salesforce and Dynamics lack the years and years of non-profit experience that Blackbaud have accumulated. They also lack the sheer volume of clients and client experience. This is where Blackbaud shines. BBCRM is not a skin. It doesn’t paper over the cracks of a for-profit sales system. It was built from the ground up with fundraising at its core.

So why hasn’t BBCRM conquered all? Well despite its obvious experience in the sector, one area Blackbaud has invested less time in is integration. While they naturally integrate or concentrate on integrating their own range of applications, they are beginning to realise that not all organisations want everything Blackbaud. This is even more so with enterprise level organisations. Larger organisations are much less likely to be pure non-profits. Many have commercial arms selling products that feed back into funding their causes. They have helplines, medical record systems, advanced communications tools. They have their alternative systems and don’t necessarily want to change them. They do, however, want to integrate them.

This is where those that implement Salesforce and Dynamics often excel. These platforms have been doing this for a while and are very accustomed to this requirement. The commercial sector is so broad that the source of data being fed into these systems is much more varied and the numbers of users far larger. This is why there is not only a MailChimp integration for Salesforce and Dynamics, there are dozens of other email marketing integrations too. Not to mention integrations with accounting packages, online shopping facilities, websites and blogs, ticketing sites and a whole host of other generic and specialist systems  that fundraisers might want to use.

For Blackbaud to sell its CRM product, their prospects not only have to be convinced that BBCRM can integrate with other applications (which without a doubt it can), but that Blackbaud will be their partner in reaching that goal, by facilitating, encouraging and incentivising others to create these integrations.

We are told that they want us, as customers, to be ‘loyal not trapped’, which is a great mantra. Now they need to embrace integration to show that they are serious about their new motto.

Without this extra dimension to their prospecting and sales process they will surely miss out on the number of sales that BBCRM could achieve.

Blackbaud Conference Sessions to Watch out for #bbcon

It seems like a time honoured tradition of existing speakers telling others which sessions at the Blackbaud Conference  (BBCon) they should look out for. There is Heller Consulting’s, Joe Matic’s ( take his advice with caution – he is, after all, a robot) and, um, others. (Feel free to add them to the comments.)

I have now attended five conferences in the US and three in the UK. What do I look for in a good session? Well quite often the speaker is key. If they are not engaging then however interesting the topic , it will be lost on the audience. That being said some topics just shouldn’t be missed. (You can always moan about the speaker afterwards!)

So in no particular order (other than my two are going first as this is my blog and I am allowed to throw impartiality out the window), here is my choice of great speakers and sessions to look out for.

 

Performance Management using Audit Trail – David Zeidman and Mohammed Dasser

Have you ever wondered how you could use Audit Trail to measure your organization’s performance entering accurate data? You may wonder what records are being entered the most or how many different people are entering data onto a specific area. David will give a little background to Audit Trail and Mohammed will show you how University of Central Florida have created various metrics to report on performance. This is not going to be a sale pitch for Audit Trail (come to the Zeidman Development booth for that) .

Raiser’s Edge Geek Forum 2: The Revenge – Ed Hohlbein, Melissa Graves, Kirk Schmidt, Bill Connors and David Zeidman

There are very many different ways of using The Raiser’s Edge. If you went to the session last year you would have seen 5 Raiser’s Edge experts from three different countries, discussing / arguing about best practises. If you have a burning question about how some aspect of The Raiser’s Edge should best be done then don’t expect one straight answer! The panel will debate different solutions based on your questions.

Real-Time Integration Between The Raiser’s Edge and the Cloud – Jonathan Puddle

Now more than ever the digital and technology world is moving to the cloud. There are many definitions of “cloud” but any technology that doesn’t connect through traditional solutions (same network, etc) requires new solutions. I have done some work with Jonathan in the past and know that some of the things that Catch The Fire have done with their various systems are quite remarkable and well worth hearing about.

Social Media Police: Nonprofit Edition – Allyson Kapin, Maddie Grant, Melanie Mathos

I have seen Melanie speak about nonprofit social media on numerous occasions and in previous BBCons she has spoken with Chad Norman in a session that went on to become a book – 101 Social Media Tactics for Nonprofits. It does not sound like this session is going to follow the same format but nevertheless it certainly sounds like this is one to watch. Social Media changes rapidly and keeping on top of the latest changes is a must. (Then you can implement them with the book!)

Infinity Platform Features and the Software Development Kit – Ben Lambert

I am a big sucker for the Infinity platform and Ben always does it good justice. It is a great environment to work with and with each version release there are always some really interesting things added. I will be watching this one closely to see what new tricks Ben has up his sleeve.

How Would you Enter THIS Gift? – Bill Connors

I have known Bill for many years. He could talk about anything and make it interesting and dynamic. However this time he is talking about gifts! And who doesn’t like a gift? Well if that gift is sent in by a known donor, from an offshore company, signed off by his spouse and as a tribute to their gardener’s special birthday, would you know how to enter it into RE and in such a way as making it reportable too?

The Raiser’s Edge Roadmap – Tom Maszk and Emily Dalton

This is an annual favourite. Tom and Emily are going to be revealing the latest greatest additions to The Raiser’s Edge. We are told that many of those that made the cut were user requests so this is sure to be a crowd pleaser. I just hope that they have beefed up the security to take care of those people who were less than pleased about their own suggestions (Yes, when will The Mergician, Validatrix and Audit Trail be added as standard RE functionality!!?)

 

Well those are my top picks. Sorry if I overlooked anybody but I am sure you will appear on somebody else’s list. Look forward to seeing you all there!

Validatrix – Complex Business Rules with ease for The Raiser’s Edge

I am really pleased to announce that we have released our latest plugin – Validatrix. (Or jump to the fancy animation). It always bothered me how so many business rules built into The Raiser’s Edge were arbitrary. You have to supply a surname but not an email address. You have to give a gift amount and date but not specify which segment it belonged to when given (as some organisations would do by adding an attribute).  It maybe that somebody is a VIP because they give over a certain amount of money or because they are a specific type of prospect or because they attended a VIP dinner. You cannot enforce these rules in The Raiser’s Edge as is. You can, however, with Validatrix.

Continue reading Validatrix – Complex Business Rules with ease for The Raiser’s Edge

Raiser’s Edge, PCI Compliance and the Dreaded, Buggy Lock Screen

There were a lot of complaints when in version 7.91 (?) of The Raiser’s Edge a major new feature was PCI compliance including a lock screen. Firstly there were issues with long running processes, global changes, imports and customisations also locking up and not continuing. There were many people who said “why?”. We don’t store credit cards and have no intention of doing so. Some of the security additions were very welcome. The previous password policy (nothing larger than 8 characters, no minimum and the ability for supervisor uses to reveal the password in security) was terrible. Even the policy of forcing users to change their password after a certain time, while annoying for the user, is an industry standard and can also be turned off.

However the lock screen is my pet peeve. I am somewhat of a different type of RE user. I am not a fundraiser (despite the many LinkedIn endorsements – thank you). I am a software developer. As a software developer I care very little for PCI compliance. Most if not all of my constituents are fictional. And yet I have no opportunity to turn off the lock screen. Most organisations that are careful about security will enforce a group policy Windows lock so that after a few minutes of Windows inactivity the screensaver comes on and returns to the password screen. Again this is a sensible precaution. As a small business I have Sage accounting software which is PCI compliant. It does not lock out.

My latest issue is that RE locks, I unlock it, it opens RE only to lock again. Or it locks, I unlock it, it opens and then something locks again. RE is open but the lock screen appears in front of it. I unlock it and, because there is not actually anything to unlock, it crashes. I don’t know what is going on but this is very annoying.

Come on Blackbaud, make the lock screen optional for all users. Not just those with non-supervisor rights (or with Windows Authentication)!

 

EDIT

It has come to my attention that I am probably in a minority position here. I regularly have a development environment open with programs that are attached to RE. This may or may not be a cause of the problem. I don’t know. I know that RE crashes when I unlock it even if I don’t have external programs attached to it. I have not been told specifically of this happening to other people so it is unfair to say that it is buggy. (By all means feel free to share your experiences in the comments). The point is I believe that the lock screen is overkill.

An upgrade to The Mergician

I am really pleased to announce an update to The Mergician that will help all UK users of The Mergician.

Previously whenever you have merged two constituents with Gift Aid Declarations the value of in the source field on the GAD has not been transferred across to the merged record.

We now do this automatically for you whenever you select to merge Gift Aid Declarations. We know how much of a pain this has been in the past where you have had to do this manually.

The Mergician is not just a global merging tool. It cleans up after the merge too where The Raiser’s Edge merge tool leaves unfinished business. The addition of the source code field being copied over adds to the feature set of The Mergician that we hope you all appreciate. Of course if you have any suggestions of improvements then we would be happy to hear them.

The upgrade to version 1.8 is available after logging into your ZeidZone account on zeidman.info for all those organisations on a maintenance plan.

Audit Trail – with undo

I am really pleased to announce the long awaited feature of Audit Trail Professional. We have been talking about adding the ability to undo changes to Audit Trail for almost as long as the product has been around so I am really pleased that we are now releasing the first version of the undo functionality (yes there will more soon). The reason it took a while to do was two fold. Continue reading Audit Trail – with undo

What Should You Consider When Users Leave? (an additional thought to Blackbaud’s post)

I like BlackbaudKnowHow. The blog that consists of many articles on best practise within Blackbaud’s products often inspires me. The posts are written by a lot of different people at Blackbaud with a lot of experience in Blackbaud products. One post written recently, What Should You Consider When Users Leave?, highlighted what users of The Raiser’s Edge should do when one of their users leaves.

One issue it does not cover (there are probably many more that were beyond the scope of the article) was what to do about action reminders that have been assigned to a user. The article suggests either deleting the user or changing their name, giving them prefix of “X”. Neither of these solutions help when a user has actions reminders associated with them.

It is possible to go in and change the assignments one by one. It is also very easy to miss them too. It is quiet easy to see what could happen if you miss a reassignment. A major donor who was due to be reminded about their donation is now forgotten about because the reminder instead of going to David goes to “XDavid” who is not longer at your organisation.

Our free plug-in Action Reminder Updater helps solve this problem. Select a soon-to-be ex-user and select a replacement user. Press start and all of the actions will be reassigned to the replacement user. Simple.