(Virtually free) charity databases – market update May 2011

‘The revolution will not be exported into a spreadsheet’ – not my words, but those of Citizen CRM.

Now I know very little about Citizen CRM, other than it appears to have taken it’s marketing spiel straight from Citizen Smith – and therefore may well be marching on Tooting Town Hall any day now…

But what I do know about Citizen CRM is that it’s one of a new breed – one of the new software as a service (‘SaaS to those in the know’) solutions designed to give charities a decent database system without a) all the cost of something like Raiser’s Edge b) all the complexity of something like Raiser’s Edge and c) all the IT headaches associated with something like R…you know what I mean.

There are others out there – Convio, a non-profit solution increasingly popular in the US of A and based upon Salesforce. CiviCRM, an open-source, not necessarily hosted solution aimed perhaps more at those in the non-profit sector with a few more techy skills, and who have a Drupal or Joomla website/CMS.

And then there’s DonorForce – a new solution, again based upon the Salesforce platform, developed by AppiChar and recently soft-launched at the Institute of Fundraising.

CiviCRM and DonorForce are/will be available in the UK – and are/will be developed to meet the needs of the UK non-profit world. Convio and Citizen CRM – well, who knows. However, the Salesforce platform looks very strong – and now that it’s being taken and developed away from it’s traditional, vanilla sales-pipeline management functions, is surely going to be an ever stronger rival to those of Blackbaud, ASI, ThankQ, Iris etc.

Watch this space…comrades


Brave New World: Fundraising Technology in 2020

A Brave New (Non-Profit) World

How innovations in technology will continue to change the way donors interact with good causes

The future of fundraising?

Back in 2009, Ken Burnett wrote in his blog (www.kenburnett.com/Blog2020vision.html) about the future of fundraising. He gave these thoughts on ‘how donors would be different in 2020’:

“It depends principally on whether fundraisers will get clever and start building more substantial, more meaningful relationships with their donors, offering them more tangible benefits and practical engagement….The emphasis will be on the donor experience – real, useful, regular feedback will be one part of the key to this, consistent, informative, welcome and produced to a very high standard.”

“Donors have gained and will gain increasing control of our means of communicating with them”

Keith Collins from Purple Vision gives some thoughts as to how this brave new world of donor relationships will be made possible by innovations in technology over the next few years.

1.Technology will bring donors and beneficiaries together

Particularly in the world of overseas aid and development, large charities such as Oxfam and Christian Aid have traditionally acted as brokers between donors in developed, western economies and those that benefit from their work.

The good reputations of these large development NGOs has provided the donors with confidence that their money will be well spent, and that the projects receiving their funds will be vetted and regularly monitored so as to be sure that the funding delivered provides for the appropriate outcomes – whether that is the delivery of fresh water to a remote village, or the education of young girls.

However, for the donor the primary relationship has been with the non-profit – even though stories, videos and project updates have been provided that communicate the benefits of the work in the field.Increasingly, technology that helps to bring funders and recipient projects closer together will become increasingly popular to donors – for example, sites such as Global Giving www.Globalgiving.co.uk – providing the “real, useful, regular feedback” that encourages the donor to build a strong relationship with the cause.

Integrated social media tools will also increasingly enable relationships to be developed between like-minded donors.

2.Technology will harness local knowledge

Locally based fundraisers – volunteers or paid staff – will wrest control of the supporter database away – forever – from the charity central office ‘mothership’, and use it to “start building more substantial, more meaningful relationships with their donors”.

The days of complex, on-premise databases accessible only from a charity HQ or selectively from some regional offices are over. The best CRM systems – including offerings from Blackbaud, ASI Europe and Salesforce – are maturing – retaining their offering of high-functionality and becoming more fun, nicer to use, platform-independent – and people will want to use them!.

Locally-based fundraisers will engage with supporters locally and capture and record intelligence about them from the comfort of their home office, or by updating the information using their smartphone – capturing an unprecedented amount of what Ken Burnett refers to as the “real, useful, regular feedback” about these supporters – that compliments the information captured at the HQ level about things such as regular donations, major donor approaches, campaigning activity etc.

3.Technology will enable a charity to truly understand what a donor thinks…or tweets!

The smartest charities will be delivering messages and information almost exclusively to a supporters’ web-enabled device – and leveraging their social media feeds to engage with supporters on a one-to-one basis with a deep understanding of that supporter’s engagement with your cause.

Ken Burnett’s assertion that “Donors have gained and will gain increasing control of our means of communicating with them” is correct. Charity supporters can engage with each other Facebook and Twitter – without the charity’s involvement.
Innovative tools such as Faceconnector (http://salesbookapp.com/faceconnector) will enable charities to monitor social media, reflect that information in their CRM systems alongside information captured through more traditional means (donations, phone calls, attendance at events) and use it to both engage early on in social media discussions, and leverage that information for identifying and recruiting advocates, campaigners, major donors, networkers etc.

Technology will enable non-profits to deliver very, very personalised marketing messages to their supporters
For a glimpse into the future of advertising, marketing (and perhaps charity fundraising!) we need look no further than the film Minority Report, based on a short story written by the prophetic Science Fiction writer Philip K. Dick.

It may seem scary, as many futuristic things can. It may seem intrusive, and we may, at present, not be ready to embrace it….but the future may well see the most sophisticated non-profit organisations leveraging the data they know about you to deliver more targeted web, mobile-web and DRTV based advertising messages wherever you are in the world – whether you are watching TV, using the Internet, out shopping or even travelling on the tube!

Information that you share freely with your favourite charities – in particular information about your smartphone to establish your exact location – will be used to enable your favourite charities to deliver personalised messages through nearby advertising or media portals

….but maybe they won’t need to do retina scans to achieve it!

Raiser’s Edge users are no longer stuck with Blackbaud as their only option

Time was, say back in the early 2000’s, when if you had Raiser’s Edge you had to go to Blackbaud for everything. Absolutely everything.

Need some training? Go on a Blackbaud classroom training course. Need someone to import some data for you? Ring Blackbaud and get one of their consultants in. Need Raiser’s Edge to do something different? Buy the RE:API.

But, slowly but surely, over the last few years, that’s been changing.

Blackbaud clients now have more options when they’re looking for training and consultancy – with companies like Purple Vision (that’s us!) in the UK – www.purple-vision.com, or Heller Consulting in the USA – www.teamheller.com – offering experience, capacity, independence and value for money that offers real competition to Blackbaud’s in-house professional services team. And there’s a legion of independent, one-man-band consultants out there too.

However, on the software side, things have moved a little more slowly – but there are now serious options for users that like Raiser’s Edge, but perhaps have needs that Blackbaud’s core offerings don’t cater for – or that are too expensive for!

One interesting company is Zeidman Development – www.zeidman.info – who offer supported customisations for Raiser’s Edge. In addition, their growing range of add-ons or ‘plugins’ offer tools that integrate with Raiser’s Edge and that often fill in the missing gaps in Raiser’s Edge functionality (there are also tools that work with other Blackbaud products such as Enterprise CRM and Blackbaud Direct Marketing)

One such product is ‘The Mergician’ – which offers the ability to merge files of multiple duplicate records – rather than the one-by-one merge record process that comes with the core product. This particular add-on comes with a price tag, but other downloads are freeware.

Of a different nature is a range of integrated modules from O-matic Software – a company based in Charleston, South Carolina (as are Blackbaud) – and who have a range of bits of kit that may prove to be a ‘Goldilocks’ solution for clients where things like Blackbaud Direct Marketing are just too big, complicated and expensive.

There three most popular tools for the UK market are Import-O-matic (touted as a more seamless, less clunky way of importing data into RE), Segment-O-matic (to help develop segments for direct marketing – sidestepping some of the limitations of the query tool) and RE Store (an integrated sales order processing and stock control system).

Now, Purple Vision haven’t yet tried out any of these tools, but we’re watching closely as contacts of ours, and clients, start evaluating them and getting a feel for them.

This is all good news, and fits in with the ‘partner ecosystem’ that certain Blackbaud luminaries have said that they are keen to develop. With Salesforce’s growth being at least partly down to their own ecosystem of partners – with software developers and consultants supporting their growing band of non-profit clients – this is surely the way for Blackbaud to go, and their clients can only benefit from this trend.


Schools don’t use their databases to full potential

Earlier this month we spoke at the Institute of Development Professionals in Education (IDPE) Conference.  We offered delegates, mainly development professionals from Independent Schools the opportunity to win a bottle of champagne in return for completing a short survey.  out of 125 Schools represented at the Conference 32 delegates completed the questionnaire.

The results are interesting.  The schools that took part in the survey were all using a variety of databases including Raiser’s Edge, Donor Strategy, WebALUMNUS, InTouch and several other smaller systems. 

The Survey found that only 32% of Independent Schools use their development database to its full potential.   This suggests to us that some schools may have purchased systems with functionality that they don’t need, or those with smaller development teams may not have the resources or time to get the most out of their system. 

In some schools there is not a proper cross-organisational database so the development teams’ system is not compatible with accounts, marketing and admissions.  This will cause difficulties for the school as the amount of information they need to store and use between departments increases.

At the Conference it was noticeable how little development teams know about alternative databases.  It’s essential that the schools do due diligence when purchasing a new system as functionality varies and schools could very easily overpay for a system that is too complex, or buy a system that doesn’t provide them with the appropriate platform for their long-term growth.

However, one particular result from the survey was encouraging.  We were really pleased that the majority of schools had control around financial processing.  68% of delegates believed their school was maximising its Gift Aid reclamation.  The work we have done in this area suggests that some schools are doing this better than others.

It would be interesting to ask the same questions of other small charities involved.  Are these conclusions just specific to development teams in schools or do other non-profit organisations think the same way?  We would like to hear your views.

You can see more details of the survey here:  http://www.purple-vision.com/news-item.asp?Auto_ID=45&SectionID=4&SubSectionID=7

The new era: Social CRM explained

Can you answer the following questions?

  • What is the online profile of your donorbase?
  • What is the ROI of your new media budget?
  • What are people tweeting about your organisation right now?
  • Have you considered using an iPhone app?
  • What % of internet statistics are made up?
  • How do you know what to believe?

Apparently, there’s another e-revolution going on!  Are you up to speed?  Ahead of the curve?  On the bandwagon?  It’s easy to feel alarmed by experts with sensational claims and exciting ideas that don’t seem to relate to the reality of your next newsletter or fundraising event.

But, despite the hype and fads, we believe that online social media does represent a profound change in the relationship between supporters and non-profit organisations.  This is not because the internet is cheaper or faster or funkier than the old methods; it’s because your supporters can get what they need without you!

Despite the theory, under the model of CRM in use by most fundraisers today, relationships are, in fact, geared around the cause and not the supporter.  Think about it; who decides what the key issues are, which people might be interested, and when to launch communications?  But with social networking tools like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, the balance of power has shifted to your supporters.

In the past, if your supporter wanted to find out about one of your fundraising events, they visited your web site.  If they wanted to complain about you, they wrote you a letter. If they wanted to find like-minded supporters, they phoned and you might direct them to a local volunteer branch. Now, they do all of these things without you even knowing!

Maybe you have already encountered social media and tried it out for yourself?  You probably have your own Facebook page or Twitter account? And perhaps you have identified ways to exploit it for your organisation?  But do you know how this affects all your other fundraising activities?  How does it relate to your events, your campaigns, your service delivery, and all that information in your CRM system?

It’s membership, Jim, but not as we know it …

At the NCVO’s Annual Conference last week, Matthew Taylor led a thought provoking workshop on the future of membership.

Working with membership organisations quite a lot, we see all sorts of clients with various kinds of stakeholders at different stages in their lifecycle (birth, growth, maturity etc) and most are struggling to work out how to relate to (what they call) their ‘members’ in light of new technology.

One client recently described our work to help introduce web 2.0 as ‘giving the organisation back to its members’. Those that don’t understand what he meant are beginning to lose out, their old momentum, thought leadership and influence is seeping away to spontaneous new spaces – like online groups, wikis and open media.

In this way, open source disempowers traditional membership organisations but also nurtures new forms of social capital. I agree with the conclusion in the workshop that “membership as we know it” is seriously under threat – but I regard this as refreshing not depressing.

I wonder what happens to organisations after they get to maturity in that lifecycle model? Is there a further stage? Could they disintegrate, regenerate, or regroup? I see parallels with the classic Boston Matrix. It’s all rather interesting and I will be following closely the progress of the research project initiated by Karl Wilding and his team at NCVO.

The importance of being earnest

For me, one of the advantages of getting older, and hopefully wiser, is that I can be more relaxed about admitting that, sometimes, I just haven’t got a clue what somebody is talking about!

As a consultant, one of the most important skills I have to demonstrate is clarity of communication. If a client doesn’t understand what I’m saying, and I don’t understand what they’re saying, we’re hardly going to have the most productive consultancy session!

It’s vital that I take every opportunity I can to clarify ideas, make sure the client and I are truly on the same wave length, and that decisions and next steps are documented and minuted.

With my colleagues at Purple Vision, when we’re knocking around new ideas, this still holds true. Last week, we had a ‘teach-in’, where David Williams-Jones gave us all an overview of our new product ‘Total Sketch’, which, simplistically, can help an organisation identify the true demographics of their supporter base, and identify and target people just like them.

This link here explains it all…in plain English!


It’s a very, very, very clever piece of kit – and the sort of thing that somebody with a) a geography degree and b) a distinguised career in charity database management should instantly get…

…but I didn’t get it. I just simply had little or no idea how it worked at all.

I had two choices a) be quiet and pretend I understood what was going on to save face or b) be frank and explain that if David had explained it all in Korean it would not have been less clear.

I chose option b. I need to understand this tool to be able to explain it’s value to our clients. I need to understand this tool in order to help deliver any projects related to it.

Ignorance would not be bliss, it’d come back and bite me very hard on my posterior. So, for the sake of several hand-in-the-air/’please Sir, can you explain it again?’ moments, I’ve saved myself some future pain – and I’m sure it’ll be worth it

“It will never work”

We’ve been working on a project recently that aims to change the culture of a complex medium-sized organisation and create a customer-centric culture.

I can already hear you crying “don’t bother”! But before you scroll down to the comments window to tell me it will never work, let me share with you some comments from one of the working groups about their interactions with colleagues when introducing business process redesign:

“when told what successful CRM systems can achieve, they are very positive about it, and give every indication of committing to the change”

“it is difficult for people to visualise something that is not yet in place and the benefits need to be neatly described to those who don’t know much about CRM

“can we think of quick and dirty examples of how the CRM will change the face of [the organisation] if we were all to sign up to it 100%. This is what we could look like it 3 years time … paint the picture and tell the story maybe?”

“I think some of them will come from organisations that have successfully implemented CRM systems and can evangelise about them”

When I hear comments like these it brings a real sense of satisfaction and achievement. At Purple Vision we spend a lot of our time evangelising the benefits of real CRM (ie not just the database) to clients and others who typically see it as a just a technology solution.

Real CRM is about building a shared attitude where an organisation collectively places its customer (aka stakeholder, client, supporter, donor) at the centre of it’s work. We reckon CRM should be about 25% TECHNOLOGY, with the rest of the effort going in to PROCESS and PEOPLE.

The members of this project team are experiencing this for themselves – and reflecting it in their enthusiasm to spread the word! This is really encouraging for the chances of success for this organisation’s ambitious plans.

OK, now you can be cynical (sorry, realistic) … 

If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck … it must be The Raiser’s Edge!

The Raiser’s Edge version 8 revolution is coming (in 2010 we hear).

Using an all-new ‘Infinity’ platform based on Microsoft’s .net technology, Blackbaud’s flagship product will be transformed into an open and accessible tool that integrates with a growing range of third party solutions, especially online tools.

When (and if) existing users choose to accept the upgrade to version 8 they will automatically adopt the new technology, but to ease this transition it will be built to look and feel (and quack) much like the current beloved product.

But the big change comes for larger players. The same Infinity platform will be used for a new product called Enterprise CRM. This will enable Blackbaud customers to mix and match different solutions to suit the needs of the whole organisation – including back office, local branches, head office, web, service delivery, marketing – all in one joined up architecture.

This is important because it takes a big step towards the holy grail of the 360-degree customer view and total relationship management. In future, you will be able to look at an individual and see not only their recent donations and communications preferences but also their history of services used, online interaction and any other relevant links to your organisation.

Our sources at Blackbaud liken their new technology to lego!  Buy the simple model and it comes out just like the picture on the box; buy the big kit and you can build it the way you want.  Crucially, it all fits together all the time.

“Bring it on” I hear you cry!  But Blackbaud are not planning to launch these new products until they have credible anchor clients up and running successfully.  We have all read that Oxford University is the first high profile early adopter, and we hear that others are likely to be announced in the next few weeks.

The Credit Crunch and non-profit CRM

Just how much is the Credit Crunch going to have an impact upon investment in technology, and, from a selfish perspective, upon investment by charities and membership organisations in technology to help them communicate with their supporters or members?

At Purple Vision we’ve been lucky in some respects, long-standing clients have asked us to contribute to further phases of their CRM projects, or work with them in new ways. However, it’s been noticeable that more questions are asked about costs, and decision makers at charities have to seek higher authority for budgets or funding before they can authorise some spend.

We’ve also noticed some concerns from boards of trustees, with them sometimes advocating the same policies of retrenchment – “digging in” during the tough period hoping to ride out the storm. Schools of thought from some analysts that organisations should start investing now so that they can be in a good position when the up-turn comes, seem not to be reaching some quarters.

We’re living in difficult times – and it looks like it’s going to continue for quite some time