Have you got your Raiser’s Edge coding right?
Blackbaud announced RE NXT at their 2014 convention – the long awaited upgrade/update to RE7. The upgrades will be ready from 2015. So what does that mean for existing RE users? What will the updates offer? How can you maximise your investment in the tool? Over the next few months we will be looking at Blackbaud’s Raiser’s Edge in the build up to finding out more about its replacement.
Dan Lockeretz, Purple Vision’s Operations Director and long-time RE user/manager asks whether we’ve got our coding right?
We work with some great organisations trying to do some great fundraising using their supporter database, but so often we find our clients struggling with an inherited coding structure. Sound familiar? Or perhaps not, so let’s start with some definitions…
What on earth is a Coding Structure anyway?
Do you classify your supporters in some way? Do you make use of Constituent Codes and Constituent Attributes to categorise and segment your supporter records?
Well, that’s one element of your data structure. Another element relates to the coding you apply to your gifts. We are of course talking about the Campaign, Appeal, Packages and Fund codes.
Now that we are clear about coding structure, let’s ask: is there really such thing as the ‘right’ coding structure’?
Yes is the most definitely the answer, but that doesn’t necessarily mean every organisation has to conform to the same structure. The right coding structure is the one that meets your organisation’s data needs. If you can identify and segment supporters easily and accurately, and you can report and analyse successfully on your fundraising activity, then you have landed on the data structure that is right for you!
Unfortunately you seem to be in the minority!
Why does it matter?
There are some fundamental things all databases need to get right. Think…
- Communication preferences and adhering to the Data Protection Act
- Flagging your ‘special’ supporters, e.g. celebrities, Major Donors, etc
…it all relies on clear, consistent coding.
Less risky in terms of affecting how you communicate with your supporters, but no less important in the long-term, is your ability to understand how your fundraising appeals are doing. It goes without saying that in order to make decisions about where to spend your fundraising budget, who to target with what , when, and how, all goes back to reporting and analysis. Trying to report on, and analyse your data without the right coding structure in place, well, where do you start!
Ok, so it’s not right according to that definition, so can it be fixed it?
Fortunately Blackbaud have put a lot of thought in to the way the Raiser’s Edge Campaigns, Funds, Appeals and Packages work together. Whilst we say that not all RE users need to structure their gift coding in the same way, there are some advantages to working within the broad approach Blackbaud have designed into RE. (link to Blackbaud resource)
We have worked on a number of projects recently where we have helped organisations switch to a structure that fits in with the RE coding model, for example by ensuring the Campaigns reflect core strategic fundraising areas, Appeals reflect specific fundraising activities, and that Funds reflect the financial goal/project.
Likewise on the Constituent record side, we have helped organisations organise their supporter base into logical multi-level audiences, with clear coding structures using Constituent Codes and Attributes.
Sounds like a lot of work!
It can be hard going, working through all the various changes, but there’s a lot that can be done to make it less arduous. Inactivating codes and tables, using Table Cleanups, Global Changes, renaming, and using well structured and consistent code IDs and Descriptions, all go a long way to make the change process possible.
You may also decide in certain cases, that you don’t need to change everything historically, and just start from a clean slate (beware of reducing your ability to report successfully over time on that one).
The number one tip however, is to start with a plan.
Give your coding structure some serious thought; work with all the relevant stakeholders to agree it in the first place, and set out a plan of change to get you there!
The benefits are sure to outweigh the effort in the long run!
Other offers and info
- Next blog: in about 3-4 weeks!
- Event: We’re hosting a breakfast briefing about Raiser’s Edge on March 27 2015 – at the end of this series of blogs and features. Registration is already open via our events page – (note our polite request – this is for charity employees, trustees or volunteers, thanks).