Tag Archives: Blackbaud

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 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.

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.

Chimpegration shortlisted for a Digital Fundraising Award – Vote for us

Chimpegration, our plug-in that integrates Blackbaud’s The Raiser’s Edge and MailChimp has been shortlisted for a Digital Fundraising Award. We are really excited about this. So many organisations are using both The Raiser’s Edge and MailChimp and can now integrate the two for free with Chimpegration.

Vote now and tell all your friends and colleagues to vote too for Chimpegration!

http://www.digitalfundraisingawards.co.uk/digitaltool

Testing GoRaise Mobile for The Raiser’s Edge

I have been in the fortunate position to have been testing a new application for The Raiser’s Edge. GoRaise Mobile is a mobile interface to The Raiser’s Edge by Electric Plum. I have had a lot of contact with Shaun Sullivan, Electric Plum’s CEO in the past when he was CTO of Blackbaud. Those of you who have heard him speak at Blackbaud conferences will know that he is passionate about technology and is a real inspiration. Electric Plum’s, soon to be released product really shines and it is clear that this is a gap in the market ready to be filled.

Continue reading Testing GoRaise Mobile for The Raiser’s Edge

Zeidman Development Customization Directory Update

Following Blackbaud’s site update (and possible before that) we noticed all the links to Blackbaud customizations in their knowledgebase broke. We are pleased to let you  know that these have now been fixed. If you spot any errors or omissions from the customization directory then please feel free to contact us and we hope to rectify the error.

You can check out our customization directory on Zeidman.info. While you are there if you have used a customization then tell others about your experience.

 

The challenges of developing generic solutions for The Raiser’s Edge

We develop a number of different types of solutions that connect The Raiser’s Edge with third party applications. When this is done for one organisation the hardest challenge is getting the requirements to match the end user’s as closely as possible. However we also develop a lot for third party applications directly. Most recently we released Chimpegration but there have been many others that integrate many different areas of the application. With these clients the important point is not so much as to match one set of requirements exactly but to match as many requirements exactly!

I have yet to come across two organisations that have set up RE the same way. Sometimes the differences are small but sometimes they are very large. One recurring theme is that of phone/email types. The Raiser’s Edge seems to be relatively unique in its setup of these values. Not only are phones and emails stored in the same location but you can store them according to address type too. How does this match up with a third party web application that uses email address as a primary key? They may have one field for home phone, one for mobile and possibly one other. How do you get that tie in with the possibility of any combination of phone and email types? I have seen a whole plethora of regular phone types e.g.

Home
Business
Preferred
Home 1
Home 2
(etc)
Primary
Work
Company

Those are just the ones I can think of as I write this. And of course each of these could have a number after them.

Then of course there is the proliferation of email (or is it e-mail, etc) addresses.

What techniques do we use to overcome these issues? When we are working with a third party developer directly it is often in their interest to develop the configuration piece. This saves them a lot of development cost. This means that we simply say to them if you want us to update a phone number you need to tell us which type it is. This is then supplied in the file/webservice. Likewise when we supply that piece of data, we also send the phone type too.

Another solution is to build a configuration part to the application. This is what we did with Chimpegration. We allow the end user to map the fields that they want to synchronise so that they specify which fields on MailChimp map to the fields on The Raiser’s Edge.

The last solution is the least desirable. It is possible to simply say that the home phone number should be called “Home” and email address should be called “Email” – end of story. This is clearly the simplest and cheapest but unless you have a lot of sway over the organisations that you are selling to it is unlikely that you are going to get many buyers.

Phone and email types are perhaps the most obvious but what other issues can arise?

Where you are collecting business details, should these be added to an organisation or to a business address on the constituent record? Should you create a new constituent for the organisation? How can you be sure that it does not already exist in the system but under a slightly different name. One solution is to allow the end user to review the matches that have been made but this again adds to the development cost. It could also be prohibitive if the volume of data you are bringing in is large.

What about fields that do not have an obvious place in The Raiser’s Edge. One application that we worked with had an anniversary date. There is no such field in RE. We gave the end user the option to ignore the field, store it has the spouse relationship from date or store it as an attribute.

What happens if one organisation makes a field mandatory? When I work with an organisation directly I will ask them what mandatory fields they have set up on their system. If, as part of the process, I have to create a new constituent then I will ask them to give me a default value for that field. For a generic solution this has to be worked into the application configuration.

You can see much of this in action in Chimpegration where we account for mandatory fields and different combinations of phone types and emails. Check out the synchronisation screencast for a glimpse of this in action.

So all said and done is this type of solution to be avoided? Absolutely not! It is not cheap because of the extra work involved in making the application work for all types of organisations. When people complain about NetCommunity or Patron Edge integrating badly with The Raiser’s Edge hopefully this article will have given you some insight as to the skills required by Blackbaud in getting the integration to work well. (Update 15th Dec 2011: I should clarify that given the difficulty in developing generic solutions I actually believe that Blackbaud have done a good job with these integrations)

If you are a third party application wondering how to integrate with The Raiser’s Edge then speak so us. We are skilled at doing this and have done it a lot. We can either do it for your or we can share the development. When done well it is a great asset to your company and will bring Raiser’s Edge users to your application.

Introducing Blackbaud +1?

I’m a big fan of Google and a big fan of Blackbaud. What do the two have in common? I’m not sure really. They are very different companies offering very different product ranges. However one obvious difference that is currently affecting me day to day is the fact that whereas Google are changing their interface throughout to reflect a modern sleek approach, Blackbaud (for the their “Edge” range of products at least) are not. In fact, not only are they not changing the way they look and feel, these products are stuck in a design that is several generations old. Due to the nature of the products they are also very restricted as to what they can do.

At the Blackbaud Conference for nonprofits in Washington last month I saw a demo of new functionality in Blackbaud CRM. It was highlighted that this functionality is only available in the “webshell” feature set of the application (as opposed to the ClickOnce feature set). If you are not familiar with those terms then essentially the “webshell” is the functionality available for all in a browser whereas the ClickOnce functionality is available only on Windows. What this also means though is that the webshell can utilise html5 and not be restricted to Windows Forms. This means a beautiful upgrade of the user interface is possible with much less of a struggle.

With the news that there will not be an RE8 what does this mean to those on RE7? When I recently showed our Chimpegration application to MailChimp I felt the need to apologise for the way that The Raiser’s Edge looked. When you look at MailChimp’s website it is very cool and very funky, just as you would expect from a website devoted to email marketing that takes pride in the range of sophisticated email templates on offer.  Clearly there is a lot more technical wizardry to MailChimp than just the templates but if their site did not look good, you would be put off from creating a campaign through them. They could see that the RE7 interface was antiquated but were clearly impressed by the depth of functionality available to users which was matched in Chimpegration.

And that is the point. The most noticeable changes that Google makes in Gmail, calendar, docs, reader, etc are staring right at you in the form of the interface. But they also make a lot of functional additions too. With the release of RE7.92 Blackbaud will certainly make some good improvements but they cannot afford to stop there. The reason Google is updating is as a form of rebranding. Raiser’s Edge 7 does not have that luxury so it must shine with its functional enhancements and make them known as loudly as a new interface would do.

Blackbaud moving towards the future, just not all the way to Infinity (yet)

The past two weeks have been packed with all things Blackbaud. Last week was the Blackbaud conference in Washington DC and then this week in London. Being a big fan of all most things Blackbaud,  I had a great time, met some great people, got to meet the all new star cast at the top of the company and was pleasantly surprised by the announcements made.

Waiting for RE8 has gone from waiting with great anticipation and expectations in previous years to how we find ourselves now. We now know that RE8 will happen at some point (albeit probably under a different name) but the wait is over. We are no longer waiting for the next big thing, but for the little things. In past years we have been wowed by what was to come on the Infinity platform. This was exciting but left us wanting it without it ever arriving for the majority. Now however, looking at the new functionality in RE7; query lists, new lookup functionality, better dedupe features and being able to easily mark participants as attended, shows that despite its name (and its UI), RE7 is moving forward. Blackbaud is moving forward for everyone.

This was demonstrated so much more so in Blackbaud Mobile. The application allows you to promote campaigns through channels that may have been previously inaccessable to the majority of organisations. Allowing organisations to promote and give supporters the mechanism to  donate through text message and mirrored on a Facebook app, brings their technology offerings into this decade.

After being burned by the anticipation of the Infinity platform’s greatness for The Raiser’s Edge users, Blackbaud are quite rightly avoiding the risk of repeated vaporware. One such thread could, in previous years, come from the exciting news of Raiser’s Edge Mobile. This application will be native to iPhone, Android and possibly Blackberry, will allow users to access their RE database directly from their mobiles. After having looked at a prototype version, I am quietly confident that this application will make it in the near future. This is another step in Blackbaud’s progression of the RE7 platform into the modern age.

What is really exciting however is the technology required to enable this. There will need to be a webservice layer for The Raiser’s Edge. There has been this web service layer for a while now with the NetCommunity integration. However it has always been restricted to NetCommunity specific tasks with limited use for other applications. If Blackbaud do the right thing this time around and make the web service layer generic and open to all applications, all of a sudden we will integration with The Raiser’s Edge like never before from all sorts of web based applications.

It does not matter what it is called (RE7 or RE8, Infinity or not) it is the perception that Blackbaud’s offerings are going forward and not stagnating. With the wait for RE8, RE7 was left languishing. The risk was great that organisations would move away from Blackbaud to other platforms offering what Blackbaud should have been doing years ago. Now at least they are moving into the modern era.

Blackbaud Conferences 2011

It is that time of year again. This year I shall again be speaking at the Blackbaud conference in Washington DC and in London a week later.  This year my session will look at whether we really should customise our databases. The discussion will centre around The Raiser’s Edge and around Blackbaud Enterprise CRM. What are the main reasons for customising the software? How do you go about it? What sort of things should you look out for? In the end will it really be worth it?

In Washington I shall be speaking Monday at 2.30pm in Chesapeake 3. In London I shall be speaking at 12.20pm in Edward 5&6.

There are lots of questions and hopefully my session will answer many of the questions and if not then enable you to find your own answers. Sometimes the hardest part of the process is knowing which questions to ask.

I would love to meet up with everybody. Last year in DC one of the complaints was that it was so hard to find anybody. I did contemplate coming the the conference in fancy dress – everyone would surely be able to find me then! A pirate? A cowboy, An alien? Anyway I am not sure that I would get through immigration so easily. I will be coming as myself (see here for a mug shot) but will be setting aside some time where I will sit in the main atrium at the conference centre. Follow my twitter feed @zeiddev for exact details of where I am.