Where does the Convio aquisition leave Blackbaud users?

So, one week on from the big announcement that Blackbaud is buying Convio (see our previous post), and people everywhere have been furiously blogging and commenting about what it all means. Some are asking questions, some are showing signs of fear, and some are just plain gossiping! Here are a few we enjoyed:

  • The Agitator – Any colour you like as long as it’s black
  • Nonprofit Force – The Convio-Blackbaud merger – one customer’s perpective
  • Appichar – Blackbaud/Convio: a match made in heaven or hell?
  • Event 360 – Why I’m optimistic about Blackbaud’s acquisition of Convio

What we haven’t seen so far is very much serious consideration of what it means for a charity that has a Blackbaud product right now. Here in the UK, that is predominantly The Raiser’s Edge 7, since Blackbaud’s wider range of products (such as Enterprise CRM, BBDM and eTapestry) are less well established.

At Purple Vision, we work every day with clients who use The Raiser’s Edge. Most of our team have known it for many years as client-side database managers and practicing consultants. We’ve put in a lot of hours, and we know it to be a robust, reliable and trusted fundraising database. But we also know that the foundations have started to creak of late, not only with the announcement last year that development of RE8 has been discontinued, but also with the emergence of smart new alternatives. And now that we learn Blackbaud is buying Convio, organisations that use The Raiser’s Edge will be thinking about succession planning for their CRM system. A scary thought, but one that needs to be considered by anyone who is serious about ensuring excellent stewardship as well as real efficiencies.

Although Blackbaud’s product plans are not yet known, it seems clear that they have absorbed their emerging competitor because of their technical know-how; they understand that the future of fundraising lies ‘in the cloud’. This trend is accelerating, and we think it means that RE7 could soon be retired.  That’s OK for future clients, but existing customers will need to work out how to replace it. Just think about that for a second; it’s huge!  Imagine your CRM system – not just the database, but also the people and processes behind your strategy – taken out of the equation and replaced. And think about the project that will need to be built to support the process – business case, SMT buy-in, trustee engagement and support, scoping, project team, resourcing etc., and then the migration project itself. Are you ready for that? Can you afford not to be?

We’re not trying to be alarmist. Really, we’re not!  No matter what size your organisation is, it’s daunting, but not impossible. We work with many nonprofit clients, and can think of a number with projects already underway that this will affect:

  • One large charity, looking to move up from RE, is not too far down that road – luckily they can stop and reassess now – or at least pause – to see what happens.
  • Another client is just setting out to integrate its website and operational database with RE. They might want to take a step back and rethink that, as the risk of building a system based on an ageing product is a significant one.

What next then, and how best to proceed? To be honest, it is too early to tell. We recommend that anyone using The Raiser’s Edge should “pull up a chair” and watch as this acquisition (still to be approved by the US authorities) unfolds. The effects on the UK charity market will be real, profound and imminent. At Purple Vision, we’ll be keeping our eyes and ears open and, as always, we will be on hand to help charities that need guidance and support. Your CRM strategy should never, ever, be just about the database. That piece of technology represents your supporter community, the very heart of your organisation. Fail to protect it at your peril!

Meet The Raiser’s Edge 8: It’s called Convio Common Ground

There was surprise and excitement yesterday when it was announced that US nonprofit technology leader Blackbaud will acquire rival software firm Convio. The $300million price tag represents a 49% premium over Convio’s market value, so somebody really wants to make sure the deal goes through!

Few people in the UK have even heard of Convio, which up to now has provided fundraising and CRM solutions in the US and Canada, including 29 out of the top 50 charities.  However, last year Convio acquired Baigent Digital, a leading web agency in the UK, and are expected to launch here in the next few months.

So why pay out so much cash to buy out a rival?  The simple answer is they had no choice. Blackbaud has not delivered the much vaunted upgrade to its ageing flagship CRM product, The Raiser’s Edge, whereas Convio’s Common Ground, building on the massively successful salesforce.com platform, has become the solution of choice with its modern, cloud-based software oriented to the needs of digital fundraisers and online supporters. So Blackbaud bought Convio before Convio overtook them.

“That’s a shame”, you may say, “Convio never fulfilled its destiny and usurped its rival!”  But such is the nature of public companies in the software business.  Rumour has it that this wasn’t the first time Blackbaud tried to buy Convio. When faced with an offer they can’t really refuse, boards of directors sooner or later recommend shareholders to sell.

So, what does all this mean?  Less choice, perhaps? At the top end of the market there is keen competition for the biggest international clients, and it will be interesting to see how Convio’s new Lumimate system shapes up against Blackbaud’s EnterpriseCRM.

But what about the quiet majority – charities working hard to build positive and beneficial relationships with their supporters?  Having supported Blackbaud technologies and clients for many years, at Purple Vision we think this deal could be a good thing, and here is why: Readers of this blog may remember a few weeks ago we reported Blackbaud Marketing VP Jana Eggers explaining on YouTube how the company had abandoned development of RE8, and instead described the company’s various other tools in a kind of mix-and-match solution.  That was a sad day for Blackbaud; both the company and its many thousands of customers deserved a lot better.  But now the solution that they need may be coming their way after all. Convio’s Common Ground has been described as “Raiser’s Edge in the Cloud”.  If this turns out to be true, it could be a tremendous kick-start for digital fundraising, and a great opportunity for fundraisers everywhere.