Category Archives: Opinion

What does Blackbaud buying JustGiving mean for the nonprofit world?

If you have not heard, Blackbaud just bought JustGiving for £95m ($123m USD) pending regulatory approval. If you are not familiar with JustGiving then you are clearly not based in the UK. JustGiving is synonymous in Britain with peer to peer fundraising. Every marathon, swimathon, cycle ride or mountain trek will invariably lead to sponsorship via JustGiving’s website. This is despite very many charity’s attempts at breaking free from JustGiving’s hold over the donor. The non-profit may try to make use of competitors’ services or encourage supporters to use homemade or white labelled sites but the supporters still return to JustGiving in their droves.

In my mind it is clear what Blackbaud can get out of this purchase. JG have a very large market share in the UK, have a very good reputation among donors and only slightly less so among the non-profit recipients. Their platform is user friendly and customisation and configuration opportunities are relatively advanced compared to their competitors.

What does JustGiving get in return? They have the lion’s share of the UK market. And therein lies the problem. They have tried to break free from the UK for some time but without any great success.

The UK has a special model that JustGiving and others are well placed to take advantage of. GiftAid allows nonprofits to claim a percentage of the donation back as a tax rebate. JG and others take a cut of this reclaimed tax. Away from the UK, the lack of this tax incentive means that JG and others have to compete on fees alone.

This cannot be the only reason for success. After all within one market everybody should be on a level playing field. The Crowdrises and Classys of this world could also take advantage of GiftAid but, so far at least, have yet to do so.

The exporting of financial services to other countries is notoriously difficult. Just look how many international banks you see on your high street. It is understandable that JustGiving would have found it difficult to succeed abroad.

Blackbaud has the expertise in many overseas markets that could help advance JG’s ambition. It has much deeper pockets which also helps!

In the UK, JG often comes under fire for charging non-profits larger than necessary fees. Whether they genuinely are too large is questionable but perception is everything. Will Blackbaud be able to alter this image? In the past Blackbaud has suffered from this too but, especially in the US, has been able to soften this point of view and is now seen as giving much back to the non-profit community.

How will both companies change because of this? Until regulatory approval has been met,  both organisations will carry on as normal and are not able to give any indication as to the direction their products will take. What is clear is that there is some overlap in products. Everydayhero and Teamraiser both offer similar functionality. Will they both remain alongside JustGiving? How will Blackbaud’s limited JustGiving integration application (BlackbaudLinks) be developed? Or will Blackbaud rely on other more sophisticated applications that bring in JustGiving data such as Importacular?

What is the difference between Chimpegration and Online Express?

What is the difference between Chimpegration and Online Express?

We are big Blackbaud fans and love much of what Blackbaud produces. Online Express is no exception. The fact that there is one application that can ask for donations, handle event registrations, manage memberships as well as allowing you to send out targeted and personalised emails is amazing. What is even better is that it does so with a complete integration into The Raiser’s Edge. – WOW!

Continue reading What is the difference between Chimpegration and Online Express?

Chimpegration on Blackbaud Hosted Raiser’s Edge (and NXT)

I cannot think how many times I have had to write back to a prospective client with the stock phrase “Unfortunately our products are not available on the Blackbaud hosted environment at the current time”.  The ground-breaking news is that after at least 7 years waiting in the wings, we are able to release one of our products on the Blackbaud hosted environment. (Finally I can updated my stock phrase)

When it was first released Chimpegration revolutionised the meaning of integration within The Raiser’s Edge world. It was the first app to fully embrace the potential of two separate platforms to transfer data between Raiser’s Edge and MailChimp. Unlike some integration applications it takes data directly from the source. Data flows from MailChimp via Chimpegration into The Raiser’ s Edge and back again. There is no need for any manual manipulation along the way. Chimpegration gives you a multitude of options to help smooth the different data points and ease the transition of information from MailChimp, an email marketing suite, to The Raiser’s Edge and donor management CRM system.

Azadi Sheridan, independent fundraising data expert, RE guru and former Blackbaud senior manager said,

‘Integration’ can mean different things for different products, but Chimpegration is the most complete and automated integration for MailChimp that I’ve seen for any fundraising database.

And now all of this is available to Blackbaud hosted clients too!

What does this mean for the future? One of the issues that many of the prospective clients faced and even our existing clients was whether they should invest in technology that is not available to them on NXT. They would put off a purchase or renewal decision because they wanted to wait and see what NXT would hold. RE7 has so much functionality but NXT looks amazing.  Having the best of both worlds is certainly a selling point for any organisation. With Chimpegration on the NXT hosted platform it is easier than ever to transition across to NXT and keep working with MailChimp.

So now you have heard all about it why not request a demo of Chimpegration.

Ready to take the plunge? Request a trial of Chimpegration on hosted.

If you are not hosted and have questions please get in contact too. Those who are not hosted by Blackbaud can also download and trial the Pro version of Chimpegration now from our Chimpegration page.

Beyond Nines hosting becomes Concourse Hosting

We have been working with Glen at Beyond Nines for years now and just heard about how the hosting part of Beyond Nines is now becoming Concourse Hosting. At Beyond Nines Glen, Lisa and the team were the only dedicated company to host our products for their Raiser’s Edge clients. We have hopefully tried to make installing our products as easy as possible but we also know that sometimes it requires a skilled hand to get them to work in complex IT environments. That is why we know that we can rely on Concourse Hosting who just know how our plug-ins work and how to ensure that they run smoothly in their Raiser’s Edge setup. They currently host clients of ours using Audit Trail, Chimpegration, Importacular and The Mergician to name but a few.

For very many years now we had hoped that Blackbaud would let us into their hosting. With the move to NXT and away from the hosting of RE Classic customizations this is looking ever doubtful. However if you want the best of breed hosting and great products certainly take a look at Concourse:  https://www.concoursehost.com/

BBCon 2015 Sessions to Watch out for

For the past quite a few years we have attended the Blackbaud Conference for Non-profits otherwise known as BBCon. This year we will be there again exhibiting and speaking. Each year we look through the sessions and recommend those that we think will be among the highlights. So in no particular order (other than my session is first in the list because it is the one everybody has to see)…

Performance Management Using Audit Trail

David Zeidman, Zeidman Development and Mohammed Dasser, University of Central Florida Foundation.

This session will show how Audit Trail can be used to manage an organization’s workflow.  David will give a brief overview of life with and without Audit Trail as well as some of the latest innovations to track performance in RE. Mohammed describes how they have aggregated Audit Trail data in order to determine how best to prioritize resources at UCF and convince others of the need using Tableau.

 

Bill and Ed’s Excellent Adventure…in Raiser’s Edge™

Bill Connors and Ed Hohlbein

How could you not want to attend a session with a name like this. However there is much more to it than just the name. Bill and Ed have had sessions for several years now and each time I hear them both speak, their knowledge and expertise outstand me time and time again. Well worth a visit.

Meet the Early Raiser’s Edge NXT™ Adopters

Meghan Gauen, Children’s Home & Aid and Kelsi Griffith, Grace College

We have heard a lot from Blackbaud about how NXT will improve our fundraising world but it really is interesting to see and hear exactly how it is being used in a real world scenario form real non-profits.

Looking beyond Raiser’s Edge™ 7 for Large Organizations

Linton Myers, Allison Van Diest, Kurt Barnes and Jim Ballou, Blackbaud

I have heard many larger organizations say that they are struggling with RE7. Some have been contemplating moving away from Blackbaud because they do not believe NXT will solve their problems. I have high hopes for BBCRM solving many issues of volume but am uncertain as to how large an organization needs to be to warrant the investment. Hoping this session will answer the questions.

Introduction to NXT API & Integrations

Dan Bowman, Ben Lambert and Jim Ballou, Blackbaud

What would a coding blog be without reference to a coding session. I have been involved in some of the NXT API discovery sessions and am very impressed with what I have so far seen. I hope you will be too.

Nonprofit Tech in 2025

Steve MacLaughlin, Blackbaud and Donna Wilkins, Charity Dynamics

I am always fascinated by futurology. 2025, while sounding very much in the future, is only ten years away and it will be interesting to hear what our speakers think will be the technology of choice for non-profits, for those who give to non-profits and those that consume non-profit services.

Raiser’s Edge and Raiser’s Edge NXT Integration: Getting the Most from Data Across Your Organization

Emily Dalton and Kevin Kreamer, Omatic Software

I have known Emily for almost ten years and heard her speak on numerous occasions. Her knowledge and grasp of the non-profit world from having worked at Blackbaud and been so involved with Raiser’s Edge make me believe that, despite working for, and no doubt pushing competing products, this will be an insightful session. (I am sure Kevin is also great)

How to Maximize Engagement Using Graduway and The Raiser’s Edge Together

Daniel Cohen, Graduway

Having worked with Graduway for this past year I have been impressed by their product and how it can transform the quality of data being brought into Raiser’s Edge and enhance their offering to school’s alumni.

What would I like to see from The Raiser’s Edge NXT API?

Everybody always says how rubbish the RE7 API is. I would have to disagree with them thoroughly. There are some serious drawbacks such as not being able to access it directly via the cloud but in terms of coverage it is probably one of the best APIs I have come across. Not only does it cover the data model (which is enormous in itself), it also covers very many areas of the GUI too. Sure there are issues with stability and with lack of documentation but thankfully I have managed to overcome both of these and have been very happy with the API.

So what are my expectations for The Raiser’s Edge NXT API? I don’t have any inside knowledge about this other than what I know is technically possible and what is feasible to do within a reasonable timeframe. I cannot foresee the possibility of asking the API for a constituent form in order to enter data into as you can with RE7. The API will be a REST based data model so that I can ask for a constituent and I will be returned a JSON (or possibly XML) based object to work with. Now if this were RE7 that constituent object would consist of layer upon layer of nested arrays of data. That is how the current CRecord object is but in the REST model this is unwieldy. It may be like that. But hopefully I will also be able to request, for example,  all notes for a given constituent or all attributes. Equally I would like to be able to simply update one note or one attribute rather than the whole object.

One area which is severely lacking in RE7 is the ability to search for data in an easy manner. My workaround has always been to create a SQL query and interrogate the database directly. This is unlikely to be possible with RE NXT. However there are mechanisms for doing this via REST. With other systems (including the CRM system that we use internally) we make use of OData.  This protocol gives me access to individual properties within a REST webservice. For example if I wanted to find a constituent with the last name of Zeidman I would do something like this:

http://www.BlackbaudsRENXTServer.com/Constituents?$filter=LastName eq ‘Zeidman’

Of course you would have to URLEncode it so that it would look something more like this:

http://www.BlackbaudsRENXTServer.com/Constituents?$filter%3DLastName+eq+%27Zeidman%27

OData is extremely powerful as I am able to search child objects too and not just the root. This is extremely difficult to do with RE7 as it requires complex SQL to do so. OData is not just for searching but also for pulling out individual properties too rather than whole objects. This is especially useful of the payload is large (as the constituent object is).

One area that is very power with the RE7 API is the ability to determine an instance of RE7’s meta data which varies between organizations. For example we can ask the API what attributes are available to us to use or what are the entries in the notepad type code table. As a third party developer this is essential. If I am writing software for one organisation I could simply hard code the use of one attribute as I know it is going to be there. However unless I can offer the end user the ability to map fields from a third party application back to RE, the application that I am developing can never be sufficiently generic.

Blackbaud’s model of bringing RE NXT online gradually in phases based on roles is a good one. It means that organizations can retain their third party integrations and customizations (assuming the previous restrictions within the hosting environment are lifted). I can envisage the API as being simply a phase in the rollout of NXT and I for one am very excited about that!

EDIT: Read more about RE NXT in general here: http://npengage.com/nonprofit-technology/2-new-solutions-with-4-big-things-great-news-for-the-nonprofit-sector/

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!

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.