Tag Archives: Raiser’s Edge NXT

Audit Trail Cloud

I have not posted for a while (in case you missed it there was a global pandemic). However I have saved myself for a great announcement. As you have perhaps read, we are about to release Audit Trail Cloud.

Where did it come from?

Audit Trail Cloud is based on the concept we introduced when we developed Audit Trail Professional many years ago. Back then Raiser’s Edge was only available in what is now called the database view. It made use of VBA (Visual Basic for Applications). Whenever a record was opened, AT Pro would take a snapshot of the field values and when it was saved it would compare the changes, saving the difference to the database.

When organisations moved to Blackbaud hosting they lost the ability to make use of AT Pro. We were not allowed to use VBA on the hosted platform. Many of our clients were sad to lose such a great application others were shocked that they would not be able to take it with them. All of these clients and more were hankering for an Audit Trail that worked with NXT and the SKY API.

So how is Audit Trail Cloud Different?

We had a number of challenges when approaching Audit Trail Cloud.

In the beginning we could not do it

In the beginning we just could not do it. There was no simple way of knowing if a record had changed. Of course we could poll RE NXT to see which records had changed recently but that was not really a viable solution. 

Later on we could do it… just differently

Along came webhooks. Webhooks told us when a change was made. This was just what we were waiting for. However, webhooks did not tell us exactly what had changed and we did not know what the previous value was. To get around this, during the setup, we take an initial snapshot of those fields that we are expecting to receive by way of webhooks. We retrieve and store a baseline set of data so that we know the value of a record before it has been changed. At the time of writing this there are a limited number of webhooks, so we are not downloading the whole database. The areas covered at present include biographical, address, contact records and gifts. We track changes for some other areas but cannot extract the baseline data sets easily.

Could be awkward

A further consideration is that we do not want to be responsible for your data. Everybody knows how awkward a data breach can be. Lots of red faces all around. But worse is the fact that when data is compromised responsibility lies with the vendor. As a small company this is not a liability we were prepared to take on. We decided to give you full control of your data. Or least farm off liability to you and to another company that are much better placed than we are to handle security. All your data is stored in the cloud with AWS (Amazon Web Services). It is locked down from us. Unless you give us the password, we cannot access it.

But wait… there’s more

One great feature that we were definitely not expecting was the breadth to which the changes are covered. While at the moment there are  limited number of areas and fields, it seems as though they are covered in a lot more places. 

We thought that doing an NXT version of Audit Trail would only capture changes in NXT. However it also captures changes made in the database view. As well as that, whereas with Audit Trail Pro we had to implement a workaround to capture global changes, with Audit Trail Cloud those changes are automatically captured in the same way as any other change.

Viewing Records

In Audit Trail Pro we had the Audit Viewer. This was a grid where the changes were shown. You could filter the changes by date, record area and field. We have reproduced this, less the dour Winforms look of the early noughties.

We have also added a constituent tile. Going on to a constituent record, you can view the changes for that one record and see how it has been edited over time.

What do we see in the future?

So far we have been limited to the webhooks that Blackbaud have released. We are told there are more on the way, so as soon as they are released we will add them to our arsenal. Beyond that we hope to be able to add a revert option so that you can undo erroneous changes. We are also adding tiles for other records that have their own NXT space, such as gifts and other areas when they are released, such as actions.

One piece of functionality that we felt was essential but is not included in this first version is a record of the user who made the change. The webhooks just do not give us this information. We are told this is coming imminently so this is our number one priority as soon as it is released.

How do I find out more?

You mean this has not been enough information for you? Well you are in luck. Take a look at our webpage:

Audit Trail Cloud – Zeidman Development

Or sign up to a webinar about Audit Trail Cloud

Audit Trail Cloud Demo (clickmeeting.com)

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.






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/