Is the API really that expensive?

I get a lot of questions asking me if a certain change to The Raiser’s Edge can be done. Here is a typical (if somewhat abbreviated conversation)

Them: “We would like to add an attribute every time a constituent is saved. Then we want to synchronize our online giving application with Raisers Edge. Lastly we want to validate fields when entering gifts into Batch.”

Me: “Each of these tasks is easily done using RE:VBA or RE:API”

Them: “Ah yes but at what cost”

Following some exchange of details I give them a quote…

Them: “Your quote seems pretty reasonable, but you say that we have to purchase RE:API and RE:VBA. I spoke to our account manager and they are going to cost more than your development! I don’t think that we can squeeze this into the budget.”

This is unfortunately an all too common occurrence. Firstly let me make it clear that not all projects require a licence for the API. Where the end result is simply a plugin these can be used without an extra licence.

Clearly some projects do not and cannot justify buying the RE:API or RE:VBA. Some one time cleanup operations could be done by a temp for a lower price than the cost of the development plus licence. Equally if your web integration is very limited in numbers then it may be worthwhile updating the information manually.

However for longer term or for high volume projects buying licences for the API can pay for itself. I worked on a project for a big event where the registration process was automated. Data was brought into Raiser’s Edge and event packs sent to the participants.

In previous years the team of five or so had done all the work themselves at a great cost to the service level they could provide but with the API doing the manual work they could concentrate of the exceptions and any issues that arose. They managed to increase the load of registrations and deal with issues as they arose without the need for a last minute panic.

In terms of the finances the team were not required to work as much over time to get the work done. They didn’t need to bring in a couple of temps to enter data and they managed to increase the number of participants. The API easily paid for itself in the first year of its use.