Blackbaud launches Raiser’s Edge NXT to help extend the life of its ageing donor database

There’s life in the old dog yet!

Blackbaud launches Raiser’s Edge NXT to help extend the life of its ageing donor database

To fanfares and cheers at its annual conference in Nashville, Blackbaud today announced the first serious development of The Raiser’s Edge in ten years. We have taken a sneak peak, and it looks to offer real improvements over RE7. Perhaps most interesting is that it focuses on how fundraisers use the system rather than new ways to engage supporters.

What is Raiser’s Edge NXT?

In a nutshell, it’s an exciting new way to access The Raiser’s Edge online

Many of us have been calling for this for years. There have been many false dawns as Blackbaud’s product team struggled to work out how to move forward from their world-beating, but ageing, flagship. Now here it is, at last!

Raiser’s Edge NXT (note the definite article – The – has been dropped) is a secure web site that connects to your RE7 database to provide fundraisers with a new way to access the same data. Or, at least , to some of the same data.

This means you can only use RE NXT if your RE7 database is hosted. But if it is, or if you choose to go hosted, fundraisers will be able to log on to your RE system using RE NXT on any browser – no software, no upgrades, no hassle.

For those who are interested in what’s under the bonnet, RE NXT is built on a totally new technology platform designed for online access rather than the old client/server desktop model which was not built for that.

There is one other key feature: Blackbaud has also developed an all-new API (Application Programming Interface) as part of RE NXT. The old RE API was cumbersome and limited such that it was all but impossible to integrate third party tools with RE. The new API is built to a more modern open standard (REST), which means that web developers, software houses and even your own IT team can get data in an out of the system much more easily.

What Raiser’s Edge NXT isn’t?

RE NXT is an online front end to access your database. It does not include new features to reach out to supporters. Blackbaud will continue to offer all of its current supporter-facing solutions, such as NetCommunity, Online Express and Heroix, for this purpose.

RE NXT holds its own copy of certain parts of your RE database, conveniently and automatically sync-ed for you behind the scenes. To begin with RE NXT will not be available as a standalone solution, so clients need to retain RE7 as the host for their combined RE7 + RE NXT solution. However, we understand that in due course (years not months) this is expected to evolve so that RE NXT may become available as a standalone solution as well.

Who is it for and what are the benefits

As you may have gathered, in RE NXT Blackbaud has focused very deliberately on RE users, not their donors. It is specifically designed to support fundraisers away from the office via phone or tablet.

Equally important, RE NXT is intended for the ‘quiet majority’ – the medium sized organisations that form the core of Blackbaud’s traditional RE user base. One of the problems with RE7 is that it has grown too big. With customers ranging from small start-ups through to international NGOs with thousands of users, successive developments have resulted in a complex single product that is very difficult to recreate online.

Blackbaud’s solution has been to focus on their user base in three parts, with three key products: BB CRM for the biggest organaisations, RE for the medium-sized category and eTapestry for the lighter users. RE NXT plugs a vital gap by providing online access for the all-important middle tier.

Our first impressions: Good, bad and (not) ugly!

The Good

This is real step forward for RE users. By extending RE7, RE NXT offers a low-risk and (hopefully) affordable way forward for existing users who are frustrated by the limitations of RE7. Pricing is promised to be realistic, based usage rather than users, and will be announced soon.

The new API in particular is a big new opportunity to extend the scope (and life) of The Raiser’s Edge. For the first time RE will be open to serious integration, and we believe this could stimulate a whole ecosystem of associated developers and apps (see Blackbaud’s separate announcement about their new Marketplace). We are already looking forward to helping our clients overcome the frustrating but very real problem of “Blackbaud’s black box”.

The Bad

Coming back down to earth, let’s remember that this is version 1. Blackbaud has taken the opportunity to announce RE NXT at its annual conference but it won’t be available until June 2015. Presumably, they have work to finish and testing to undertake.

But even so, the features you can expect will be a small sub-set of the full functionality of RE7. RE NXT will start life as a limited view into a supporter’s record, with the ability to make simple updates and run reports. Most of the back office tools such as appeals, events and system admin will remain on RE7. Blackbaud says it intends to migrate everything across to RE NXT in due course, but realistically this will take time.

There is a subtle but important limitation in the technical architecture. By enabling RE with online access, Blackbaud has decided against a comprehensive saas (software-as-a-service) solution. Unlike true cloud computing, where all users benefit by sharing a single managed instance of the same infrastructure, RE NXT accesses your private standalone database. This means that issues of scalability and efficiency remain because RE7 + RE NXT is not a full multi-tenant solution.

By the same token, the RE7 system to which RE NXT is connected is as a donor database rather than a comprehensive and extensible CRM solution. RE7 is a purpose-built point tool for fundraising, not a comprehensive platform designed to manage wide range of diverse data sources across the organisation. If that is what you need, Blackbaud CRM would be a better fit.

(Not) Ugly

RE NXT is definitely not ugly. In fact it looks fab – fresh, modern and accessible – in use it feels more like LinkedIn or facebook than a traditional database.

RE NXT has been designed with the benefit of Project Bluebird, an extensive programme of listening and learning from existing RE users over the past 2 years.

Blackbaud knows a thing or two about fundraising, and they have used their deep experience to design an interface that presents all the right information, reporting and insight for a busy fundraiser on the go.

Salesforce 1 for Higher Education & Advancement Connect

Advance, Connect, Engage, Appeal

We love a good action word as much as anyone else so imagine how pleased we were to see these words linked with the news of Salesforce 1 for Higher Ed & Advancement Connect pop up on the Salesforce Foundation website.

We keep an eye on our partners websites, and as you may know work with Salesforce and the Salesforce Foundation to support a range of non profits to consider Salesforce, and then to implement the tool for them.

One of our key audiences is higher ed (and by that we mean independent schools, further ed colleges, higher ed colleges, universities and anything in between), so it’s good to see this tool emerge for this market.

It looks much like we might be on track for a great solution – and by great we mean ‘even better than anything else we’ve seen’, since Salesforce is already pretty great in our opinion!

You can see for yourself what is on offer via the web links – but it looks like Advance Connect could be tool that could spell the end to data silos in different departments and finally let recruitment, alumni, development, faculty staff et al use the system to meet their needs.  And have one single relationship and customer record through a students lifetime.

We’ve been chuntering on about how much this is needed for a while, so to find it could be part of this tool is *quite exciting* .

The timing of all this is great in 4 ways!

  1. We know lots of people need this – its good to get a tool that will meet customer demand!
  2. This will only be the beginning – take SF1 for Higher Ed, Advancement Connect and add in the App Exchange and tools like Exact Target Marketing Cloud and the world is well, not quite yours for the taking, but you know where we’re going with that thought!
  3. Steve is off to Dreamforce in San Francisco so can find out much much more for us while he is there and able to see the tool, talk to the developers and uncover the roadmap for the product – watch this space for more of the ‘low down’ and check out his video blogs (from 13 October)
  4. We have 2 events taking place on November 5th – one for Student Recruitment (in the morning from 10-12), and one for Alumni and Development teams (in the afternoon from 2-4).  Both of these will share the potential of Salesforce and talk through some of the features and benefits which we elaborate on in our whitepaper (via Slideshare, via website) – so we can share anything we do find out.

If you’re in the sector and want to book either event, click this lovely link to go to the booking page. 

 

PS Steve will tell us more about the exciting news about NGO connect when he is at Dreamforce!  If you want to be inspired in the meantime, watch the video here.

What’s NXT for raiser’s edge?

Is there finally news on our much-used and favoured fundraising tool?

We have been lamenting the lack of news from Blackbaud about what’s happening with Raiser’s Edge for quite some time.  First there was hope with Convio  which we blogged about.  We even went to BBCon in 2012 and interviewed the Senior VP for Marketing & Products about the vision for Raiser’s Edge.

And then it all went quiet.

So started talking about Life After Raiser’s Edge and addressed tools like  App-o-matic  to pump some more life into the tool and help people wring maximum value out of their investment in Raiser’s Edge.

We’ve been quietly getting on with helping charities with fixes, work-around solutions, health-checks and clever ideas about how to move things forward with RE ever since.

But it looks like finally, there may be some new news!

What’s coming next is already billed as Raiser’s Edge NXT. 

The detail will emerge from BBCon, Blackbaud’s Annual Convention, this year to be held in the rather fun sounding Gaylord Opry in Nashville, Tennessee  from 6th – 8th October.  But it is already being billed as reaffirming “the company’s commitment to its fundraising and relationship management, and financial management platforms, follows a consistent wave of investments and innovation during the last two quarters … “

There’s more:

“Raiser’s Edge NXT and Financial Edge NXT will offer customers a suite of powerful, capability-rich solutions that enable nonprofits to expand their donor base, boost productivity, effectively manage transactions and eliminate IT burden—all within a brand new, intuitive interface that is designed to support the way nonprofits work. These solutions will also offer full integration capabilities, allowing seamless communication between the two systems.

In addition to developing its cloud-based NXT line, Blackbaud will continue to support its flagship fundraising and relationship management solution, The Raiser’s Edge, as well as its financial management solution, The Financial Edge, and has committed a set of enhancements for both solutions to customers in the fall timeframe”

There are promises too – Blackbaud President and CEO Mike Gianoni – who only joined Blackbaud in January – believes “…not only will nonprofits experience all the benefits of the cloud—such as a lower total cost of ownership and reduced administrative overhead—they will also benefit from an unparalleled user experience, and powerful built-in tools that help them expand the reach of their missions while improving organizational efficacy.”

So it finally seems there may be something new for RE users after all.

Watch this space for more news.

  • We will evaluate RE NXT and share what we feel are the features, benefits and opportunities against other market options for you shortly.
  • If you are an RE user and need some help and extra support in your team, find out about our Database Management on Demand service.  We are making an offer available exclusively to IoF Members (watch out for your newsletters, landing 17th & 23rd October for more news), of some free extra time on new 10 hour contracts taken out by 19th December this year.  Details also here

 

Source: Blackbaud PR via Business Wire, published in Charleston, South Carolina 9 September 01.09pm EDT.