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Moving (systems) sucks!

moving boxI've just recently completed a move to a new house with my wife, and we've *finally* reached the stage of knowing where everything is, and things are more or less how they're going to be for a while. It was an exhausting, stressful process, but at the end, we're very glad we've moved and can see ourselves here for at least a few years, at least until having the mortgage becomes financially worthwhile! During the move process, it occurred to me that moving to a new house has a lot of similarities with moving to a new technology system.

  • Long before you actually decide to move to a new place, you (hopefully) have planned out the process, with the key dates and tasks assigned to appropriate people or vendors (the cable company, utility company, etc). You should be doing the same thing with your technology system move. It's a big project, so make sure you've got ballpark timelines, responsible people, key dates all mapped out and clearly communicated. Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the "good enough" here - it's better to put a few guesses rather than leave off a major chunk of work.
  • When you make the decision to move, you probably have a list of criteria that you're using to decide where to move, such as what part of town you'd like to be in, what kind of house or apartment you're looking for, what amenities you'd like to be close to, how many bedrooms you'd like, what schools are nearby, and more. When choosing to move to a new technology system, you should be doing the same things: making a list of criteria that are important to you and seeing which "houses" match your requirements. For example, when moving to a new donor management system, it may be very important to you that the system generate mailing labels, but it may not be as important to you to have integrated on-line donations. It's also extremely helpful to write these things down, especially if it's not just you making all the decisions (which it rarely is, even if you think it is)!
  • You might choose to use a vendor to help you with the process (a moving company), which is what my wife and I chose to do (hey, we're grown-ups, sadly, the days of pizza and beer with friends and boxes are over, we have too much stuff!). We looked at lots of reviews on Yelp and Angie's List, and asked our friends who they used to help us make an informed decision. You should be doing the same things if you choose to work with a vendor: ask around (perhaps on the NTEN Discuss mailing list) for other organizations who've worked with them, look at online reviews if they have some, and ask the vendor themselves if they've worked with an organization like yours. Ultimately you want to know that you've chosen based on something more than the salesperson was really nice.
  • Once the actual move is complete, there's still a lot more work to do! Right after we moved, we still had to clean up the house, fix a few small things that needed repair, and, of course, unpack! It's been about a little over a month, and we're only just now starting to feel settled in. This is the first week I stopped looking for the silverware in the wrong drawer! Moving technology systems is the same: even after you've made the big switch, there's probably data to be cleaned up, some tweaks to be made to the system, and ultimately some time for people to feel comfortable in the new system. It's not always obvious where everything is, and people may be "looking in the wrong drawer" for a while after the move.
  • Finally, even before we felt settled in, we sent out an invitation to a housewarming party. We knew that if we had this deadline to motivate us, it would inspire us to take care of things. Were there last minute trips to Target and Goodwill? You bet there were!  But was the place ready for guests when party-time arrived? Yes, it was. You should schedule a time to celebrate your move to the new system you've chosen! Sometimes it can be fun to hold a celebratory "funeral" for the old system, and a welcome to the new system. This can get people excited about the completion of the move process, and inspire things to get done by the party deadline.

Hopefully once you've made the big move, you'll be glad you did, and remember, moving sucks for everyone, so even if it's painful, don't forget that we've all been there!

Blackbaud Weighs In on Common Ground

In light of the recent announcement that Blackbaud would be retiring its Common Ground product, and the conversation that generated in the nonprofit community, we thought it would be a good idea to provide a few answers to some of the questions we’ve been hearing. Jana Eggers, Blackbaud’s Senior Vice President of Products and Marketing, was kind enough to weigh in.

First Jana wanted to clarify that the announcement only affects organizations using the Common Ground product, not Blackbaud’s Common Ground Enterprise or Luminate products. You can determine the product version of your Common Ground application by looking under the Quick Help section in the left sidebar within the application itself. Affected Common Ground clients are on versions 4.0 and above.

We asked six questions. The following responses are unedited, though we did ask Jana to clarify twice when we thought her answers were vague. We appreciate her taking the time. Note that Idealware is not endorsing any of Blackbaud’s statements reflected in this post—we’re simply sharing them with our readers.

 
1.      Common Ground seemed to hold a specific, useful niche in the CRM space, and at Idealware, we’re disappointed to see it go. In light of its viability in this market, why did you choose to retire this particular product?
 
After the acquisition of Convio, the combined team evaluated our full product portfolio. For fundraising and CRM products serving small- to mid-sized nonprofits, this meant looking at Common Ground, eTapestry, and The Raiser's Edge. In three months, we reviewed the solutions, evaluated current customer usage, looked at industry reports, and talked to customers about their future needs – all efforts focused on determining which solutions would most drive success and satisfaction for nonprofits.
 
It was a difficult decision, as all of the solutions have strong presence and benefits. And, the Salesforce.com platform was one clear benefit of Common Ground.  In the end, the decision netted down to:
·         Decreasing the number overlapping products. We could not define a clear market for Common Ground that did not almost fully overlap with eTapestry and The Raiser’s Edge.
·         The amount of investment needed to bring Common Ground to the state customers expect from a full-featured fundraising and CRM solution. It is at an earlier stage than our other two products.
·         Number of customers impacted. eTapestry has over 10,000 nonprofits using the product. Common Ground has about 400.
 
And we also had:
·         eTapestry with a proven track record of providing a simple, easy to use, and affordable solution for over 10,000 nonprofits. 
·         The Raiser’s Edge as the market leader for nonprofits and provides the most complete solution for a nonprofit's fundraising and CRM needs, being used by over 13,000 nonprofits.
·         eTapestry and The Raiser’s Edge with integrated Internet capabilities and add-on solutions, and a robust partner and cohort network to lower the cost of deployment and use.
 
Minimizing the number of customers impacted by any decision and maximizing our customers’ ability to be successful was the key part of our decision.
 
We are working with all Common Ground clients to discuss their specific options moving forward.
 
2.      If Blackbaud felt Common Ground was extraneous, it stands to reason that other products in your line are similarly extraneous—what does the future hold for Luminate CRM, Sphere CRM or other related products in the Blackbaud line?
 
Extraneous is not how we felt about the product. This was a difficult decision and we did not take lightly the impact we would have on customers or partners. The decision came down to us being able to better serve the nonprofit industry by focusing on eTapestry and The Raiser’s Edge in this area.
 
This is not new for us, though some have argued we haven’t done it enough. Sphere CRM is one example of how Blackbaud has refocused a product. After our acquisition of Kintera in 2008, we went through a similar review process and decided to focus that product on the peer-to-peer fundraising space and to stop offering it as a CRM product. Since then, the vast majority of customers who were using the Sphere CRM functionality have moved to other Blackbaud products and are much happier than before.
 
Regarding Sphere, again, we looked at customer impact and market served in this review. Sphere supports over 3500 customers, and specifically serves small to mid-sized nonprofits well. Team Raiser supports larger nonprofits well for their peer-to-peer fundraising needs. The markets are distinct.
 
Regarding Luminate CRM, we are committed to the Salesforce.com platform. We see a group of organizations adopting the platform – a psychographic more than a demographic, in this case. We believe that for those organizations, the Salesforce.com platform is the right solution and we want to support them with the best nonprofit-specific solution on that platform. We have a roadmap for Luminate CRM’s continued development and are integrating it with other Blackbaud offerings, like Blackbaud Direct Marketing and Blackbaud Merchant Solutions. We believe the Salesforce.com platform will continue to play an important role in the nonprofit industry and we will continue to develop on it and integrate our products with it.
 
3.      The result of this action is that Blackbaud is consolidating product. In the Content Management Space, you currently have three tools: NetCommunity, Luminate CMS and Sphere CMS. Do you plan to retire some of these products to consolidate that line, as well?
 
Blackbaud has solutions in the online fundraising and engagement space which requires a certain amount of content management functionality to support those needs. Most of our clients use these products in conjunction with another CMS.
 
Let me explain the different markets the products you mention serve:
·         Blackbaud NetCommunity only works with The Raiser's Edge and Education Edge. It is optimized to work with these Blackbaud solutions, but it is not a standalone internet marketing and fundraising solution.
·         Luminate Online, while integrated with Luminate CRM and soon to be integrated with The Raisers’s Edge, is a standalone solution. This serves the needs of nonprofits that want to start with internet marketing and fundraising independently of their CRM solution.
·         Sphere (as covered above in #2) serves the peer-to-peer fundraising needs of small and mid-sized nonprofits.
 
4.      What is Blackbaud’s vision for Common Ground users in April 2014 when the product is discontinued? Will the system be turned off? Should users be looking to migrate to a new system now?
 
First, there is no immediate disruption to Common Ground customers. They do not need to migrate now. We are working with each customer to build individual plans to migrate them efficiently. These plans will include incentives such as implementation, conversion, and comparable pricing.
 
Although we hope that all of our Common Ground customers will move to another Blackbaud solution, we recognize that some may want to pursue other options. We are committed to treating every Common Ground customer, regardless of their choice, with the sincere and thoughtful care they deserve.
 
As a summary:
·         Before March 31, 2014, we will work with each Common Ground customer to support their migration to another solution.
·         We will not extend current contacts ending before March 31, 2014 past March 31, 2014.
·         We will continue to fulfill our contractual obligations to clients with valid contracts past March 2014 through the end of their contract.
·         After March 31, 2014 or the end of the contract with a specific customer, whichever is later, that customer’s users will not be able to access the Common Ground package, the support portal, or external applications that run Common Ground Fundraising, like online forms.
 
We will be addressing questions collected from the Common Ground community during our upcoming Common Ground Town Hall meeting and encourage people to attend for the latest updates.
 
5.      Is Blackbaud considering making Common Ground available to users beyond the sunset, or retirement, date by either extending the managed package licenses indefinitely, making Common Ground available as a no-cost, unmanaged package through the App Exchange or another platform, and/or releasing the Common Ground code under an open source license?
 
We will not be offering options like these because we don’t believe they are ultimately in the best interest for our customers.
 
6.      As you think about the Blackbaud roadmap and continuing to innovate your products, how will you decide what innovations to take on?  As you have a number of different products on different platforms, does your roadmap involve concentrating on specific products, integrating product together, or somehow trying to build features that enhance a number of your products at once?
 
To drive product decisions, we consider many aspects: customer needs, opportunity fit, market and product status, and a business analysis. Consideration of platform is part of this analysis, but not an overriding factor.
 
To drive innovation, we use a Discovery process to go deeper into the customer needs and drive to an understanding of how we can solve those needs well. Product experts across engineering, product management and user experience work together to accomplish this. As an example, it is not uncommon in this process to talk to 30 clients and iterate on 25 prototypes before writing a single line of code. If you want to read more about the general methodology we follow, check out Inspired: How to Create Products that Customers Love.
 
And we are absolutely interested in making sure products that should integrate together do -- like we have with The Raiser's Edge and Blackbaud Net Community, Blackbaud CRM and Blackbaud Internet Solutions, and in the future both The Raiser's Edge and Blackbaud CRM will integrate with Luminate Online.
 
Our guiding principle for our products is for nonprofits to say: ”Because of Blackbaud I spend more time on my mission.”
 
 

Jana also agreed to field a limited number of follow-up questions from the comments, so if you’ve got one to ask, fire away. Idealware will choose two or three to pass along.

Choosing Giving Levels for Online Donations

When thinking about your online donation landing page it is essential to consider the giving levels that you suggest to your potential donors. These little numbers end up conveying a lot about your organization and your fundraising priorities and can directly influence the giving amount that a donor chooses. Ask too little and you will likely receive less than a donor had planned to give, ask too much and you may deter lower level donors from giving at all. 

There are a number of different approaches you can take to crafting your online giving levels. Take a look at the ASPCA, Nature Conservancy and American Red Cross as examples.  The ASPCA lists dollar amounts from $20 to $100 working to elicit lower level gifts while the Nature Conservancy lists amounts from $50 to $10,000 implying an expected donation of much larger sums. The ASPCA is clearly speaking to first time or lower level donors while the Nature Conservancy has made a choice to address higher level donors with less attention to small gifts. Interestingly, and worth considering, the Red Cross chooses not to list suggested giving amounts at all. 

Okay, so assuming you do want to suggest levels, how do you choose what the right giving levels are for your organization? (For the purpose of this post let’s narrow the field to one-time donations as opposed to monthly gifts.  I’ll address that thought process at a later time.) For one-time donations, most often I see levels at $25, $50, $100, $250 and $500.  These numbers reflect a generic progression of gift size for small- or medium-sized organizations.  Let’s start here and ask some questions to see if we can make an argument to change any numbers in the progression.

First, take a look at your donation history overall. What is your lowest gift? If you get a substantial number of gifts smaller than $25, consider lowering the low point to $15 or $20 to include those donors in the online process. Plan on using the low number to try and push those low-level donations higher, so if you see a large number of $10 donations, consider making the lowest level donation $15 to encourage a slightly larger gift. (It is true that typing a 3 instead of a 2 is a lot easier than writing thirty instead of twenty on a check! So if you are seeing $15 via check, assume you can push at least a little online.) On the flip side, if you only get a few gifts lower than, say $35, consider that as your low level gift and work up from there. Don’t give your donors an easy option to give lower than their standard, make them type in $25 instead of $35 rather than providing a simple radio button for a lower gift. 

Next, consider your highest gift amount listed. What is a realistically high gift amount for your organization?  If you rarely see gifts larger than $1000 then don’t list $5000 as a top number! As with the lower level, you want to try and use these suggested amounts as ways to push your donors to stretch their gift.  So if most larger gifts register at $250, consider a high level of $300 or $350 to push that gift higher but not alienate your donors. 

At the high level, you also need to consider how much you are willing to give up in donation administration fees.  If you are working with a 4% fee for credit card processing, at $25 you pay a $1 fee- not much to think about, but at $1000 that fee is $40, which is a substantial amount to loose from the donation.  Make sure to calculate in your admin fees in the determination of the high value you want to encourage via online donation tools. 

And once you have you high and low value, use your common sense to determine price points in between.  Try to list somewhere between four and six values in total, with the increments being closer together at the low end and then farther apart as the amounts get higher. Always make sure to add an “Other” option, and do list that after the high end donation level to imply that this is for gifts larger than the top amount listed.

As a best practice, consider annotating (if your online donation too will allow) what each donation amount will “buy”.  Take a look at the ASPCA’s donation page for a fantastic example of this concept.  

Remember, the numbers you choose to suggest to your potential donors are pushing them to give at certain dollar amounts. Try to push your donors to give a little more, but make sure to provide them with options that meet their giving level. If you can’t find a reason to change the $25, $50, $100, $250 and $500 progression then go with it.  No matter what you choose, run the giving levels for a test period, then stop and evaluate the response and adjust accordingly. 

How to Implement Simple Segmentation Strategies

Written by Jeff Shuck for Event 360's excellent blog, and reprinted with permission from Event 360.

It's January. The frenzy of your year-end appeal has subsided and you're now busy tallying your results, comparing year-to-year performance, and plotting your next moves. Before you take your next step, it's important to remember that these new and repeat donors present an opportunity to start building more meaningful connections with an engaged group of people who have just raised their hand. They've raised their hand to voice their support for your mission through their donation.

This particular donor list is probably a mixed bag of long-time loyal constituents, inspired first-time event participants and their donors, returning lost donors, people who have just been touched by your cause, and a whole assortment of others. Your communications strategy should acknowledge that each of these groups has a different reason for pledging their support. Market segmentation is an effective tool to talk to each of these groups in a way that will resonate with their giving motivations.

In market segmentation, you evaluate your overall donor and constituent base and separate them into smaller groups based on similar characteristics. Once you have your groups (or segments), you then speak differently to each one, based upon their specific needs and reasons for supporting your organization. By tailoring your messages to their unique motivations, you can develop a more meaningful connection between your organization and your supporters.With most online fundraising and communications tools, you have the ability to easily group people together and send specific messages based on what you know about them. Talking to people in a personal and relevant way can increase the value of your messages for the recipients and keep your messages from being ignored. Applying your constituent knowledge to your online communications strategy through segmentation can be the foundation for stronger donor relationships and ultimately, more fundraising dollars towards achieving your organization's mission.Segmentation can vary from simple to sophisticated. Event 360 recommends starting with what you already know and build from there.

Simple strategies 

Simple segmentation focuses on descriptive segments, such as demographics and donor history, and tailors your communication based on what you already know about that person. You've been collecting this information already, but you may not have utilized it to create more personal connections with your donors. For example:

  • Address information tells you where they live. There is a lot you can do with that little piece of information. You can send them specific messages about events happening in their local community. The language that you use can point to this knowledge: “Our renowned Foundation researcher, Dr. Smith, is signing her latest book at the Borders right in your backyard.”
  • Gift information helps you understand how frequently they donate or what specific projects they support. Donors like to know that their individual efforts are making a difference. Rather than focusing on your organization's pre-determined recognition levels, send these people specific messages based on their donation levels or about specific progress on the projects that they care about. For example: “Jane, did you know that the $187 dollars you raised last week for the Walk will buy seven bags of groceries for hungry families this week? Thanks for your effort.”
  • You may also have access to information such as birthdate, gender, or marital status as part of your existing data collection. Use this information creatively. You may have an existing special occasion donation program, but you haven't figured out how to publicize it. If a donor is celebrating a milestone birthday, a month before their big day, send them an e-mail suggesting gifts to your organization in lieu of presents. And always make sure to celebrate them on the actual day as well! With the automation in most e-mail systems now, you can trigger these reminders to personalize and go out automatically.

As you implement simple segmentation strategies, don't be afraid to test different messaging within the same group of people to see what gets the strongest response. If your organization supports different types of community programming, perhaps you test a different message to see if that elicits a greater click-through rate or increases the amount of interaction with your website. Using the example above, you could try saying: “Jane, did you know that the $187 dollars you raised last week for the Walk will support 3 hours of classroom programs about healthy eating choices? Thanks for your effort!”Remember, keep your segments straightforward. Aim for at least two as you begin this process and don't try to get too specific until you have stronger data and a better understanding of your database.

Sophisticated strategies 

As segmentation becomes part of your standard communication strategies, you'll want to enhance your segmentation strategy by building your database -- not by just adding more people, but collecting richer data about the people you are interacting with. The data collection is simple: all you have to do is ask.Add a question or two to online event registration forms or donation forms that will help you better understand their giving motivations. A standard question on every form, such as, “What is your connection to the cause?” gives you an important insight on how to best tailor messages to a supporter. Just make sure that you give people a standard list of options, so that you can more easily tabulate the data, identify groups, and utilize this information as part of your communication strategies.A more sophisticated segmentation strategy also means taking donor and participant behavior into consideration, because past behavior is one of the best predictors for future actions and behavior. Utilize the tools available to you through your online communications systems or event management tools to track this important data. Consider things such as:

  • How frequently are they donating or participating? How much are they donating or collecting from others as donations?

  • How soon after an ask do they donate or sign up for an event? How many asks does it take to get them to act?

  • How far in advance of an event do they sign up?

  • What events are they participating in?

  • Are they bringing friends? Are their friends donating?

Start collecting this information in a standardized way, so that you can begin measuring and evaluating your constituents' actions. This is not an exhaustive list of the things you can measure, nor is it the appropriate list for every organization. You will need to take a look at your own fundraising revenue streams and determine what actions may be good predictors for your specific situation. The key is to select behaviors that are trackable.Once you are armed with all of this information --basic demographics and lifestyle facts, an understanding of preferences and opinions, and knowledge about how your constituents have behaved in the past --you are ready for the next step. Statistical analysis can be used at this stage to help determine if there are demographics or specific actions that are strong predictors of future behavior (e.g. major donors) and tailor your messages accordingly. In essence, you can use this wealth of data to determine how to talk to your constituents before they've taken any actions and lead them down specific paths of action in support of your organization.

Come next January, you'll be talking to your donors in a whole new way.

 

So You Want to Hold a Contest on Facebook?

So your organization has a Facebook page. Good. You’ve been building your presence, getting new fans and posting regularly. Also good. You’ve even been conducting a “sweeps” contest on your page.


Wait, hold up.

It may seem like a good idea to have your contest where your fans are, but you may be in violation of the Terms of Service. Did you even read the fine print? Don't worry, almost no one does--the legalese and mumbo-jumbo is really boring. Here's a  quick step by step translation.

First things first. It's up to you to make sure your promotion is legal and legit, not Facebook. That means  you are responsible for “the official rules, offer terms and eligibility requirements (e.g., age and residency restrictions),” and everything else you’ve ever heard said or mentioned involving other sweepstakes. But wait! There are even more regulations to deal with, including those “governing the promotion and all prizes offered in connection with the promotion (e.g., registration and obtaining necessary regulatory approvals).”

But just because you’ve followed all Facebook’s requirements doesn’t make you legal. If you’re not sure if your contest fits the law to a “T,” go ask someone--preferably, a lawyer.

Next, any promotion you do on Facebook must be administered within Apps on Facebook.com. That means any part of running your contest (like collecting entries, holding a drawing, judging entries, notifying winners...you get the idea) can ONLY be run through an app on a tab on your Facebook page.

If you’re going to run a promotion on Facebook you need the following:

  • A complete legal release of Facebook acknowledged by every person who enters
  • Something that tells everyone that the promotion is absolutely, positively, in entirely no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, associated with, or has anything at all to do with Facebook. Nothing at all.
  • Something that tells your participants that all their information goes to you, the people running the contest, and not Facebook.
It's  tempting to use all those shiny little functions on Facebook for registration--like, wouldn’t it be totally cool and hip and sexy to let people enter the contest just by “liking” your page, or checking into a place? I mean, that would be slick, right? Wrong. Resist the temptation. It's not allowed. Forbidden. Verboten. Get behind me, “Like” button. That’s your new mantra, and this isn’t the last time you’ll say it.

Don’t require people to do anything on Facebook other than “liking” you, checking in to someplace, or using your sweepstakes app before they’re allowed to enter the contest. Basically, don’t be all “Like this comment to enter the contest,” or, “put your photo on the Wall to register.”

Does your contest involve people voting up your participants? Then you better not think about using the “Like” button for that. How are you planning on telling people when they won the contest? It better not be Facebook. Email them, pick up the phone and call them, write a letter, just don’t tell them through “chat.”

Finally, don’t use Facebook’s name, any of their trademarks, trade names, copyrights, or just about anything else they own in connection with your promotion. Don’t mention them in the rules for your promotion either. Oh, that part where you’re required to say that Facebook had nothing to do with your promotion? It’s okay to use their name there.

So, what is actually covered by these terms? Facebook considers a contest to be “a promotion that includes a prize of monetary value and a winner determined on the basis of skill.” A sweepstakes is “a promotion that includes a prize of monetary value and a winner selected on the basis of chance.” If all these rules and guidelines sound like too much work, just don’t run a sweepstakes or contest on Facebook.

Major Fundraising Application Canned, What’s Next for Nonprofit Databases?

As the nonprofit tech community continues to weigh in on the news that Blackbaud would be discontinuing Common Ground, we're still tracking the issue and sharing points of view we think would be of interest to you. Groundwire's Digital Content & Marketing Manager Suphatra Laviolette offered us her take. Leave us a comment with your thoughts, questions or concerns about the announcement, and click through for the original post or to read more Groundwire content.

Blackbaud shook the nonprofit tech world last week with its announcement that they were cancelling Common Ground, a popular fundraising application built on Salesforce.com and used by small to mid-sized nonprofits.

Common Ground was the brainchild of Convio, an Austin-based public software company acquired by Blackbaud in spring 2012 to the tune of $325 million. The application was a fee-based, customizable online database for capturing donations and engaging donors. It could work with a website’s front end, like forms and web profiles, and route form inputs to a database that any lay person could manage. It ran on Salesforce.com, a cloud-based online database site relatively free to nonprofits.

The news received a wide range of response, with bloggers and the Twittersphere describing Common Ground as “killed off” and speculations that Luminate, another Blackbaud fundraising application, may be next on the chopping block. There's even a petition asking Blackbaud to extend Common Ground licenses indefinitely and allow users to migrate on their own time.

“The move is ultimately good for nonprofit customers,” speculates Dan Lammot, founder of roundCause, a Salesforce.com fundraising suite for large, enterprise level nonprofits. “Blackbaud and Convio were not favored in the field and this move takes an application out of play that wasn't sustainable, wasn’t being invested in, and didn't belong in the marketplace.”

Migration will be a big cost and burden for the 700 orphans of Common Ground, who have until March 2014 to move to another database. Blackbaud is promoting Raiser’s Edge and eTapestry as replacements, but neither fit. Raiser’s Edge costs considerably more than Common Ground’s already expensive $100+ per seat monthly license model. eTapestry, while more affordable, is watered down; for example, it doesn’t have functionalities like Chatter, Salesforce.com’s social networking feature that allows real time chat and a group socializing platform similar to Facebook.

What’s next for nonprofit databases? Fundraising applications built on Salesforce.com are still the most popular choice for small to mid-size nonprofits. Cloud-based solutions are perfect for nonprofits with limited resources because it allows them to grow in scale at their own pace. Small to mid-size nonprofits paying for IT support and server infrastructure to host data on-site will find it costly, unreliable, and at risk to theft, natural disaster and fire. Also, Salesforce.com’s user community is supported by boutique tech shops adept at customizing Salesforce (we’re one of them).

Salesforce.com is not without its own strings. The biggest draw – being nearly free – is also “free in the way one might win keys to a jet,” comments Robert L. Weiner, the first blogger to weigh in on the Blackbaud announcement. “Would you just climb in the cockpit and start flying?”

Weiner stresses the importance of nonprofits partnering up with consultants who can get a Salesforce database off the ground and provide thorough training. Salesforce.com Foundation released a public statement of the same vein, directing Common Ground migrants to utilize one of 76 Salesforce.com certified consulting partners (we are also is on that list). A consulting partner that can customize a fundraising template may be a better road for nonprofits whose needs don’t fit any products on the market.

While nonprofit techies wave “fare thee well” to Common Ground as it’s buried among the other formerly innovative products in Blackbaud’s acquisitions graveyard, I wonder: will nonprofit decision makers still be lured to work with the database provider/goliath? I asked William Nourse, a former Raiser’s Edge user and Chief Information Officer for Citizens Schools, an enterprise nonprofit with over 500 employees. Nourse left Raiser’s Edge with the impression that Blackbaud was “mired in an older view of how one deploys technology” and signed up with Convio’s Common Ground before the Blackbaud acquisition. "I have no interest in working with Blackbaud if I can possibly avoid it," shares Nourse.

“Can I quote you on that?” I asked him.

Without hesitation: “Absolutely.”

Suphatra Laviolette is the Digital Content & Marketing Manager at Groundwire, a 501(c)3 that provides database, web and engagement solutions to mission driven organizations.

 

 

 

Community Voting for 2013 NTC Sessions Open Until September 7

Our good friends an partners at NTEN put on the Nonprofit Technology Conference every spring. It’s always a wonderful opportunity to get up-to-date on what’s happening in the field. (Because the 2013 conference will be in beautiful Minneapolis, it will also be an opportunity to try these delicious-looking walleye cookies.) You can help shape how the conference will look by taking part in community voting for the session proposals, which is open until midnight EST on September 7. Find out more about the voting guidelines here.

At Idealware we look forward to the conference each year, and we’re excited about the sessions we submitted for the 2013 conference. We’ve listed the session titles below-- you can read the full description on NTEN's site by following the embedded link. If you think any of the sessions look like something you’d want to attend, feel free to give it an up-vote!
 

Get Your Technology Project Funded!

Bridging the Technology Funding Gap

Maturing Your Organization's Social Culture ... By Creating a Policy?

Finding a Pitch-Perfect Voice for Your Organization

The Idealware School of Video Production for Nonprofits Who Don’t Video Good

The Wide, Wide World of eLearning

More Than Apps: Affordable Program Delivery Through Mobile Phones

Service Beyond Geography: Using Technology to Serve People Remotely

Measuring Your Mission: Using Data to Track Organizational Health and Success

From Digital Divide to Digital Inclusion: Technology as an Equalizing Force

Measures of Success: Practical Tools to Evaluate Your Organization's Programs

Blackbaud kills off Common Ground

Robert Weiner was kind enough to let us reprint this post from his website about Blackbaud discontinuing Common Ground. Click through to the original post to read or contribute to the active comments section for a discussion about what might happen when Blackbaud ends support.

Yesterday the news was that Blackbaud had laid off 50 employees it acquired when it bought Convio in May.  In what was said to be an unrelated development, they also announced the departure of Gene Austin, the former CEO of Convio.

Today the news is that Blackbaud is killing off Common Ground, one of the two donor management products (aka CRMs or Constituent Relationship Management systems) that they acquired from Convio.  The official word is that Common Ground (CG) will be supported through March, 2014.  I don't know whether that means they'll turn off the CG servers on that date or simply stop providing help desk support.  I hope that clients will be able to continue using the underlying SalesForce engine and donor data after that date, but I assume that any functionality specific to Common Ground, or that needs to communicate with a Blackbaud server, could stop working.  I don't know whether any data will disappear at that point.  (Any BB staff or CG consultants care to chime in?)

Common Ground, which was launched 4 years ago this month, had nearly 700 clients.  The Blackbaud/Convio staff I spoke with seemed taken aback by this decision.  They were still actively pitching the product to my clients just last week.  Blackbaud says that eTapestry and Raiser's Edge will be their solutions for small-to-mid-sized nonprofits, but I don't see either as a real replacement for Common Ground.

I'm surprised that things turned out this way.  I'd thought Luminate CRM, Convio's other database, was in more danger since it had only a tenth as many clients, was more of a work-in-progress, and competed directly with Blackbaud's Enterprise CRM product. Maybe Common Ground wasn't making money.  Maybe the profit margins are simply higher for Luminate.  Luminate certainly serves larger clients, and maybe killing it would be worse PR.  Maybe those large clients have large legal teams that could make life difficult.  And maybe Luminate will also be killed off, just not yet.

I'm also surprised by the announced shut-off date.  When Blackbaud bought Campagne Associates' GiftMaker Pro (GMP) product in 2006, clients were given 2 years to migrate.  But since GMP was installed on clients' own servers, it continued running after that date without any interruptions.  Blackbaud says it still gets support calls from GMP users.  But with an online product, if the company turns off the servers there's no way for clients to continue using the product. (Again, any consultants or BB staff care to weigh in on what will happen in April 2014?)  I've been in numerous discussions recently where senior Blackbaud staff have said that clients will be given 5 - 7 years to migrate off any discontinued products.  This time it's giving them less than 2 years.

As I wrote last January, there are lots of other database choices for small nonprofits.In the Salesforce world, Affinaquest and RoundCorner are getting good reviews, and lots of organizations are working with Salesforce's Nonprofit Starter Pack.  Nonetheless, I'm disappointed that a strong product is being taken out of the marketplace.  And I don't envy Common Ground clients that have to make a decision and migrate to a new system within the next 19 months -- particularly those that just spent big bucks migrating to Common Ground.  I expect that Blackbaud will provide incentives to move to one of their other products, but unless they throw in the implementation consulting and deeply discount the annual fees, that could be a big budget hit.

As one of my friend said when she got the news, "these are interesting times."  But not in a good way.

    

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