Tag Archives: Raiser’s Edge

5 things we have learned from our ‘more to fundraising CRM’ breakfasts.

Since September, we’ve been running a provocatively titled breakfast series:

There’s more to fundraising CRM than Raiser’s Edge. Honest. 

Let’s be clear about one thing.  We’re not RE haters.  Far from it – many of the team here have used Raisers Edge for years, in fact, we started life consulting about it when Purple Vision was founded in 2003.  It is a stalwart of the fundraising world.

For every RE lover, we also know that there several more who are frustrated with where things are with the database – years of little investment and development. They’re stuck trying to adapt a dinosaur to the 21st century, and we hear the frustration of users feeling like they are stuck with this as there’s nothing else on the market that even compares for heavy duty, heavy lifting fundraising work.

Organisation and tech are intertwined

There are two parts to that issue obviously – just one is technology related, and the other is the organisational impetus, but both issues inform each other.

Often, one of the challenges that charities are facing in looking at Raisers Edge and whether to consider RE NXT or other tools is that other tech has been adopted to plug a gap.  The result is a  disconnected proliferation of tools that has only served to feed the frustration as data is not where it needs to be to run successful campaigns.

Hopes were high a few years ago when Raiser’s Edge announced NXT.

Hopes were dashed as charities realised it wasn’t all they’d dreamed of, and the price was as aspirational as they’d feared it might be.

Of course, options exist to upgrade to other Blackbaud products – let us not forget their full range (overview here) and the fact that there are many for whom these tools are just what they need.

Here’s what we learned from the breakfast series

Having delivered several More to… breakfasts where we outline the shared frustration (that’s news to some – they think they are alone in thinking RE is a beast!) and look at where technology is today, we’ve learned a few key insights about how fundraisers feel about their tech.

1          Everyone is REconsidering whether to move to NXT

2          Very few organisations are automatically upgrading

When RE NEXT was announced, it felt like a foregone conclusion that RE users would upgrade.  As time passes since its release, fewer charities are inclined to tick the box to update. Still more are waiting for insight into what the leading charities are going to do with their tech.

Aside from a few early adopters, there seems to be little talk about who is making the move to NXT and a lot of talk about who is looking at alternatives or looking at CRM projects.   Meanwhile, information about pricing and the like for NXT is still quite esoteric for those looking to eye up the marketplace – real costs are only really available if you speak directly to Blackbaud (which to be fair is the case with many tech providers, but we appreciate it does make it hard to get a full picture and there seems to be more “out there” on the net about other tools than RE).

3          We’re meeting Generation Y – and they don’t like it.

For a generation born with the steep uptake in tech and who are used to adopting tech and digital trends as they emerge, Raiser’s Edge is probably best described with some of the more colourful hashtags and emoji’s that form part of our modern parlance, with multiple exclamation points after each one.

It is a real dinosaur for this generation – our fundraising directors in the making – to get their heads around.  Where’s the flexibility? Integration? Why can’t I manipulate my data like I want to? On my phone?

Generation Z is about to enter the workforce – this is the generation born with a phone nearly surgically attached to them – just imagine what they are going to make of it.  How are you even going to get them to use it?! What will that mean for fundraising records?

4      Mid-sized charities are now looking to moving away from Raiser’s Edge

5      There are still question marks over whether Salesforce is a proven fundraising platform.

Of course, the alternative to RE is a platform based fundraising solution – recognising that there are multiple other fundraising database products around, there are two key players in the CRM market at this level – Microsoft and Salesforce.

Back in 2010, Purple Vision nailed its colours to the Salesforce mask and we’re a registered Salesforce partner.  We’re also still independent – we don’t work exclusively with Salesforce and so are perhaps more receptive to any criticism that is levelled at the platform than some others.

Right now, a host of charities aren’t convinced that Salesforce has fundraising crm all sewn up.  Much has changed in the past year about this, though, and we recognise that a lot of information isn’t yet fully appreciated by fundraisers.

How many know that the NPSP – the Non-Profit Success Pack – was fully relaunched last year (it was first known as the starter pack) and the content significantly ‘beefed up’?

More content for grants management and programme management was added and a comprehensive product roadmap outlined – it’s just an all-around better product for charities.  Meanwhile, non-profit discounts now extend to all the array of cloud services (from Marketing Cloud to Pardot, service cloud to communities).

Despite all this, we’re not seeing a lot of new non-profit adoption case studies that resonate with the mid-size charity audience.

None of these tools for Salesforce look like Raiser’s Edge though which is also part of the adoption problem.  The tech is current and so is quite a leap for some users to take to move to a completely new and unfamiliar interface with such a mix of users within their teams.

5 Causeview looks good – but can it ‘cut the mustard’?

The one tool for Salesforce that does ‘look’ like Raiser’s Edge (and by the look we mean that fundraisers review and see how they can immediately replicate essential fundraising processes with ease) is Causeview.

It is a managed package of fundraising functionality that sits on top of Salesforce and makes the most of the power of the behemoth CRM.  It brings together essential functionality for fundraisers, volunteer management and a bit of event management.

It’s already in use in more than 150 charities in North America, Australia and Europe – but only a handful in the UK.

The market response to Causeview is good when it’s demoed and the price is fair for the functionality – but a few more case studies will help those who are wavering between NXT upgrades and a platform shift to make their move.

The good news – a whole new crop of users will be going live shortly which will help build even more confidence.  Just watch this space.

Sign up for our next breakfast and join the debate: 

10 May 2017 – 09.30 (Purple Vision) 

Get in touch

3 reasons to make sure you have system support

Purple Vision offers support services for both our Raiser’s Edge and Salesforce clients.

Of course, these products are as diverse as the two tools themselves but the fundamental principle is the same – we’re here to help.

Here are our three key reasons why we think support services are part of your key to success.

Protect your investment

The long and the short of any system is that you’ve paid money for it and continue to pay to keep it operating.  It is (or should be) a tool that’s central to how you work. Support services can help keep your system healthy, fit for purpose and ready to work hard for you.  Think of your system as the hard-working team member it is and set aside the time and resource needed to help it perform for you.

Efficiency gains

How long will you sit at your desk trying to figure out ‘how do I …?’ – of course, you might search online for a fix (self learning is always encouraged).  But at what point do you realise you could be doing something more valuable and call an expert who can make a fix for you?  Or help you and your team understand how to fix similar issues in the future?  Support services are here for just that.  Escalating issues so you can be more efficient.

Control your costs 

There’s nothing worse than getting an unexpected bill. Support services help you plan and anticipate spend requirements for your system.

  • Firstly, as a fixed price per hours contract, you’ll know what you’re paying for support services, know how much time you have left and be able to manage support needs in the future.
  • Secondly, sticky tape fixes and work-arounds are never a great long term solution to managing systems but we see many that are common in legacy systems.  Our expert team will be able to help you assess when more permanent fixes, updates and additional needs should be formalised.  They will help you to look at the best processes to keep you operating or even to consider making a move to a new system (if you’re still using Raiser’s Edge), or when to add a new app for the functionality needs you have (Salesforce) – so any more serious changes to your system can be carefully planned and costed rather than knee-jerk responses.

Find out more about our support services below.

Can we help? 

Whatever your question, we’re happy to help.   You can

Unlock your fundraising potential

We’ve published a new whitepaper – Unlock your fundraising potential.

Our thinking behind the paper is about our experience and how things have moved on.

“Worldwide, an estimated 13,000 non-profits use Raiser’s Edge – a database that has been around for more than 30 years.  It’s no surprise that it’s widely been seen as ‘the’ tool for fundraisers. Purple Vision has supported clients who use RE for more than a third of the entire lifespan of the product. Over that time, we’ve learned a few things.  In this paper, we share some of our thoughts and insights to help you with the next steps that you are likely to take as you consider your options with this tool. 

There will be a next step, because at the grand old age of 30, Blackbaud upgraded Raiser’s Edge to Raiser’s Edge NXT.  On the face of it, for many it will feel like a natural progression.  But we’re urging charities to look beyond an auto-pilot upgrade, and consider their options.  Of course, you may still choose to use your tried and tested favourite, but for others, this is a chance to take a fresh look at the options available”.

Get your copy of the paper

  • Unlock your potential -read as a PDF
  • Unlock your fundraising potential – read as a flipbook

    Making the right choice for your charity 

  • For the first time, as charities look at their fundraising infrastructure, there are a selection of real and viable alternatives available to what was once the only really serious option for fundraisers.

    We share just one of these options as a potential alternative to review and consider – Causeview. We’ve described it as RE but on the Salesforce platform.  Its an interesting comparison and we’d like to  show you what we mean.

    But of course, we’re realistic.  For some charities, Raiser’s Edge is just where they need to be.

    What’s key is to think and decide which is the right way to go for your organisation.  So our paper explains the points at which you might need to consider a change and what some of those drivers and decision points may need to be for your charity.

    See for yourself

    We’re hosting a series of breakfast briefings to showcase Causeview – join us at one of these to see the tool for yourself and see how it compares to what you have now.

    Join us at 09.00 on any of the three dates below – just click the link on the date to register.

    We’ll be holding these events in our offices – Purple Vision are based in Kennington Park, just opposite Oval tube station in London.  They’re fairly informal affairs over coffee and croissants with a chance to ask questions too.

And while we’re talking about Causeview, of course we know there are other tools on the market too. We’re happy to talk to you about these, too – we pride ourselves on being independent and on your side.  For us that means doing the right thing for you – not shoehorning your needs into a box.

Get in touch

If you have questions about this paper or would like to know more about Causeview, give us a ring on 0845 458 0250 or email [email protected]

Do I need a database, or a CRM?

Do I need a CRM or a Donor Database?

Why they are different, and why it matters to you.

Surely, this is an argument in semantics? Donor database and CRM are interchangeable terms – aren’t they? Well, no, we don’t think so – and to confuse the two can put your organisation’s future success at risk. What’s more, we think there’s more to this topic than the thought that “a donor database is for a charity and a CRM is for a business”. That doesn’t do the topic justice either.

Definitions of CRM

Sooner or later the question will pop up – what is CRM anyway? Ask Google, and you’ll get a plethora of articles talking about specific products and a confusion of academic study.

CRM is a long established term for relationship management.  The ‘C’ can mean what you want it to – customer, client, constituent, community, or if you work in partnerships fundraising even ‘companies’ you’re working with for sponsorship and support.

Definitions vary, but typically range around three areas:

  • Academic – Gummeson described CRM as “the values and strategies of relationship marketing with particular emphasis on customer relationships – turned into practical application” (Gummeson)
  •  Broad technology theory –Customer relationship management (CRM) is a system for managing a company’s interactions with current and future customers. It often involves using technology to organize, automate and synchronize sales, marketing, customer service, and technical support” (Shaw)
  •  System providers –Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is a strategy for managing all your company’s relationships and interactions with your customers and potential customers. It helps you improve your profitability” [Salesforce]

Today, CRM has assumed two meanings.  It is both:

  • the approach of successfully managing customer and organisational relationships (be that for business, fundraising or service delivery),
  • the tool which we use to manage the relationships

We think of it as being the 360o view of our customers and the work of the organisation.

Definition of a donor database

 A donor database can be anything from an Excel Spreadsheet or Access Database through to a tool available on the open market or even built especially for you. The definition of a database is usually much more limited than that for ‘CRM’:

 “A database is a collection of information that is organized so that it can easily be accessed, managed, and updated.” (Google Dictionary)

 It’s harder to define an ‘approach’ – both CRM and database are built around storing data so it can be retrieved.

So, what’s the difference?

In essence, the main difference between a ‘donor database’ and a ‘CRM’ system is that the former reflects an old-fashioned, outdated way of engaging with your supporters, and the latter reflects more modern techniques – and more truly reflects the needs and aspirations of a modern non-profit organisation.

The table below gives a quick snapshot of the key differences between a donor database and a CRM system.

Differences between a database and a CRM system

We think it’s important to note the word ‘platform’ when describing a CRM tool. Whereas a donor database anticipates ways of working in more traditional ways – donations received by cheque, mailings sent through the post, donor enquiries received by phone; and mainly relies upon human beings typing data into it – a CRM platform anticipates a very different way of working.

A CRM platform offers the same functionality as the old-fashioned donor databases, but what they also offer is the ability to stitch together a variety of other technologies and data sources – easily, cheaply and with minimal human interaction.

In essence, a CRM platform becomes a place where increasingly data is stored that is entered in other places:

  • A donor upgrades their Direct Debit – and it is automatically updated in the CRM system
  • A donor registers for an event – and it is automatically updated in the CRM system
  • A donor reads and responds to your email – the CRM system records the time they spent looking at your email, the pages on your website they clicked through to, and triggers someone in your office to reply to their emailed response
  • A supporters buys a ticket to one of your exhibitions or shows – and their payment and registration is automatically updated in the CRM system

Why does it matter?

How you think about your relationships is crucial to your success.

It matters, because although in 1995 most non-profits just needed a donor database, we very rarely see organisations with such limited ambitions and aspirations in 2015. CRM platforms are often the technology tools that will meet these needs – but organisations are still buying donor databases instead, and paying the price further down the line. If you buy a donor database thinking it’s a CRM system, then you’re going to be in trouble.

CRM is the only way to achieve the 360-degree view and unlock the power of your supporter base.  It is about proactively managing your interactions with current and future customers (or constituents, supporters, contacts depending what you call them).

Success is as much about your attitude to supporters as it is about the tools you use.   

Attitude test 1: Imagine for a minute you’re a volunteer with your organisation.  A volunteer may be ‘approved’ by HR, paid expenses by finance, supervised by a person in a remote location on a particular project, and also be part of a communication list and receive information about your activities and appeals. And as volunteers are often superb supporters of charities, they might already be a donor, too.  How would you describe your experience of working with your organisation in the volunteers shoes?  Are you happy with that?

Attitude test 2: How do you react to the question – does every one we meet want a relationship with us?   Do you think about a) how to manage that using data protection, data management and opt-out rules or b) communications and engagement options and approaches that might help people engage?

So, do I need a database or a CRM?

The answer to this question lies in your organisational strategy and culture – and your attitude…

Few traditional fundraising record systems are actually CRM systems.  That’s not surprising as most were invented before the era of CRM.  Most databases are essentially highly featured lists of donors and gifts. CRM systems are platforms that enable you to work with a single set of data across your whole organisation.

Do I need a database or a CRM?  You should consider a platform or CRM approach if:

  • your strategy includes action words like ‘grow, develop, engage, build, increase , support’ – you need a scale-able and accessible system that can grow with you.
  • you use multiple digital tools which each hold data about a customer – for example your website content management system, email marketing tool, social media tool.
  • your customers are involved in more than one way with you – eg buying tickets for an event and making a donation to an appeal, volunteering and donating.
  • You work in or across multiple locations – not everyone is office based and you may have multiple sites, so need more than a single point solution.


NXT Steps – do I need to make a move?

NXT Steps – do I need to make a move?

Steve Thomas and Dan Lockeretz

A question we have been asked a few times over the past few months is whether Raiser’s Edge NXT is going to be a good move.  Our answer, of course, depends entirely on who is asking the question – whether you’re a small charity or large, what your main activity focus is and your strategy and goals both now and in the next few years.

Our answer is also couched in the caveat that this is based on our knowledge and information about the system,  the functionalities that are expected to be included and the limited information about the product roadmap for how Blackbaud may (or may not) choose to develop the product in the future.

Over the past few months we’ve spent some time looking at tips and tricks for making the most of your investment in RE – covering integrations and coding and looking at some of the features that Raiser’s Edge NXT will include.

Our rationale in covering these topics is simple.

Database and CRM are big decisions and investments for all organisations and the prospect of the need for change can bring people out in a cold sweat.  So it’s natural to make the most of what you’ve got.  But it’s also appropriate to take a step back every now and then and ensure that what you have meets your needs and look at the plans you need to make to ensure your tools continue to meet your needs.  Part of this will obviously be looking at Raiser’s Edge NXT and the options it presents for you.

NXT is a natural step for fundraising charities

Blackbaud’s major strength is fundraising.  There is no one else who knows fundraising like they do – years of accumulated knowledge and experience have come together to create products and services to meet a fundraiser’s needs.

So if you are a fundraising-focused organisation, where you are currently using RE7 well and have no need to extend your requirements, stick with it and look at Raiser’s Edge NXT.  If you are solidly and successfully working with major donor fundraising and direct mail activities, RE remains your friend.

Also, if you have had issues with user-adoption – the fancy way of saying getting people to engage and use RE, then RE:NXT could be part of the answer to your struggle.  The interface – the way information is displayed, dashboards, and the role-based views – are all designed to make for a slicker, friendlier, user experience.

Take a step back to get a better view of your strategy and plans 

If digital is a main thrust of your strategy and goals – increased digital integration and a real ‘digital first’ approach – then you might need to look more closely at the detail of NXT. You might need to take a step back and consider what is included if you are looking for a palette of fancy features available remotely.

The current plans for the roll-out of NXT are focused on visual functionality like views and reports. It’s going to take Blackbaud time to develop features and roll them out. The plan is to migrate all relevant features in RE7 into Raiser’s Edge NXT. Our advice is always to make a choice based on what is a certainty and to look carefully at what remains an uncertainty or can’t be pinned down (advice which to be fair applies to any system or investment decision you make).

Your IT infrastructure will also be a part of your decision making process.   If you are already on a Blackbaud hosted service, then you’re already part way to Raiser’s Edge NXT, and it’s perhaps a case of ‘what do you have to lose?

It might also be sensible to consider NXT then if you are looking at moving your hosting – but equally if you are in this position, you should look at a range of options and not just one supplier.

Take two steps back to get a better view of the landscape

 The two steps back overview will be helpful if any of the following fit your organisation or situation

  • You are not solely focused on fundraising
  • Integrating fundraising, campaigning, service delivery, operations and finance (or any combination) is important to you
  • Extending your organisational reach is a goal
  • Wanting a single source of data across the organisation is on your radar
  • Stronger digital integration and functionality (everything from CMS, social, apps, giving platforms, comms and marketing tools for example) is a current or future requirement
  • You are looking at your IT infrastructure and hosting
  • You are concerned about licensing and user costs

Taking steps back will give you the space to truly evaluate the tools and options.  RE7 and Raiser’s Edge NXT may work for you – but equally by taking two steps back from where you are now, you can have a clearer view of the wider picture of options available to you.  You may decide to stay with Blackbaud, of course (it’s a solid reputable product that you are familiar with after all), but you might find that evaluating other market options helpful in leading you to ask questions and compare where you are now and where you want to be in the future with the differing tools and functionalities on offer.

As Blackbaud develops, they are offering more functionality that other providers already offer – such as Blackbaud’s new marketplace of add-ons and services. Soon to be launched, this follows the success of Salesforce and MS Dynamics which both have well established online “stores”, rather like a corporate equivalent to Google Play or the App Store.

I’m not sure whether NXT will meet my needs – what now?

If you are in the camp where you need to take two steps back and look at what’s right as you move forward and make choices about next steps, there are some areas you might need to consider when making a top-level comparison and deciding who you might want to talk to about your next moves.

Make sure you have considered all the options for extending your RE investment in the interim as this process should be a considered review and decision, rather than a rush.

Look at the type of CRM options you have

Platform solutions are extendable – they can be grown and developed in line with your needs in a more cost effective way than static solutions can.  Using the API (application programme interface) – the code – behind the product, developers can easily work with the system to configure, add and personalise according to your needs.

We know that there will be a REST API (REST is a standard for making API’s available) for NXT, but don’t know how much direct integration is going to be possible.  We may not know for some time as the roadmap for rolling out all the products and features will take time.  It depends on the complexity of your needs how successful API integrations might be to deliver what you require – if you need a few ‘pings’ between x and y, it could work, but if your needs are more complex API integration may not be the best way to handle this.

Platform solutions also offer a network of developers – often called an ecosystem – who know how to use the code and API to develop products and services.  This means more customer choice, more ‘apps’ and ‘add-on’ services which are ready configured to ‘plug in’ to your system and give you the service or function that you need.  Blackbaud has a marketplace of options for BBCRM, Salesforce has a whole area called the AppExchange, Dynamics has a fewer options.

RE NXT table - how it compares to other popular options

Look at costs

Of course, cost is a major influencer in non-profit decision making.  The cost model for NXT is to be based on a subscription basis (by number of records for example) rather than number of users.  So if you are an organisation with many users but relatively small database, the NXT pricing model may prove more cost-effective.  The reverse of course could therefore be true, and RE:NXT does rely on Blackbaud hosting.

Take time to think

It’s not always an easy to take a take two steps back and look at the future during all the other things you need to deliver.   If you need help evaluating your options, our independent technology advice service will help you through the steps and lead you to the best solution for your organisation.  We are firmly independent and will offer the best advice for your organisation, not just recommend products and services provided by our partners.

Find out more!

  • Purple Vision are hosting an event on 27th March which will review where we’re at with Raiser’s Edge which will give us the chance to share our views, opportunities and challenges with RE and look at some of the solutions.  We are delighted that Blackbaud Product Manager Azadi Sheridan will be joining us for this event to help us get the facts straight, as well as give us a sneaky-peak at RE NXT.
  • Register today!  Places are limited -please note we welcome delegates from charities and non profits at our events.  If you are a partner, supplier or other commercial entity and would like to come, please drop us a note before registering.
  • Blackbaud resource: If you want to find out more about RE: NXT, Blackbaud have an on-demand webinar which covers some of the key features and functions: https://hello.blackbaud.com/CORP_10611_Accounting_RE_NXT_WSEM_ProductOverview_10-30-14-Registration-LP.html

Keep Fit for RE – 5 integrations to stretch, extend and supplement your Raiser’s Edge installation

Keep Fit for Raiser’s Edge

Purple Vision Lead Consultant Haydn Thomas shares five integrations that will help you stretch, extend and supplement Raiser’s Edge

 All charities use Raiser’s Edge in different ways. So, it’s no surprise that one fundraiser finds everything they need in Raiser’s Edge and another is exasperated by a perceived gap in functionality.

The market for products which extend Raiser’s Edge is far from saturated (particularly compared to something like the Salesforce AppExchange).  There don’t appear to be innovative companies creating useful products lining up around the block. But, there are a few very dedicated offerings in two key areas of functionality. You may find that you can’t live without some of their tools.

Functionality Gap – Getting data into Raiser’s Edge

Many organisations use third party applications or other databases to gather data and run key business processes. For example, some universities may be using SITS to keep student records, andImplementationWhite some charities may be using a third party platform like Just Giving or Artez for event fundraising.  Sooner or later, you will want this data to pass into Raiser’s Edge.

Tool 1 –  Import-O-Matic is a revolutionary plug-in which allows users to build a bridge between a .csv file and Raiser’s Edge. Users can build ‘profiles’ associated with .csv files which drastically reduce any need for ETL (extract, transform and load) processes in Access or Excel. In addition, there are many intuitive and useful features – too many to list here.  If you want data to appear in AND interact with Raiser’s Edge in a specific way, you will love Import-O-Matic, and will likely join the chorus of fundraisers wishing that it came as a standard feature of Raiser’s Edge.

Functionality Gap – supplementing Raiser’s Edge existing functionality

Raiser’s Edge usually has one, maybe two ways of handling any given process. For example, Raiser’s Edge will bring in emails from Outlook, but not other email providers, and Raiser’s Edge supports email marketing via NetCommunity, but no other email marketing tools.

SmartTHING has 2 products which allow users some choice in email provider.  BusinessProcessesWhite

Tool 2 – SmartGMAIL allows users to add an email from within Gmail to Raiser’s Edge. Similar to Raiser’s Edge’s own Outlook integration, an action is added in addition to an action notepad with the text of the email.

Tool 3 – SmartOUTLOOK is an augmented version of the existing Raiser’s Edge integration. It works on Outlook365 and hosted Raiser’s Edge, and it is configurable, meaning less time entering data and more time communicating with supporters.

Zeidman Development also offer solutions

Tool 4 – Zeidman  broke the mould with Chimpegration, a plug-in which integrates MailChimp with Raiser’s Edge. As is typical of Zeidman products, the functionality of Chimpegration and subsequent email marketing plug-ins provides for much more than just an import file – it is a well-designed piece of kit.SystemWhite

Tool 5 – Monkey-ing about with Mailchimp wasn’t enough, Zeidman has also created a plug-in for Constant Contact, Contactegration to plug into their e-marketing power, too.

Our view on the future of Raiser’s Edge 3rd party tools

This is by no means a comprehensive review of all the Raiser’s Edge tools that are on the market. There are a few more, but not many.

Raiser’s Edge is a niche tool.  It takes real expertise and an in-depth understanding of the platform to develop it and create a work-around for some of the gaps in its functionality.  It’s hard to see how a thriving and diverse group of developers can exist around something which appears so complex to adapt.  The result is that there is a real limit to the potential pool from which users can gain additional support to help it meet their needs.People,process,techWhite

We keep a firm eye out for new tools and innovations – and upgrades – and hope for great strides to support non-profits, but fear that perhaps there really will be some functionalities that Raiser’s Edge will never be able to support.  So in the interim, we keep turning back to the tried and tested favourites shown in this blog.

We remain optimistic for the future of RE and are adept at helping make a real difference to how you use the tool and the investment you have already made in this fundraiser’s favourite.

Our other Raiser’s Edge resourcesCMSWhite

Blogs: Read other posts for advice and guidance on making the most of your donor database

 Breakfast Briefing: Attend our event on 27th March – What’s NXT for Raiser’s Edge? to hear our thoughts on how you can develop and adapt RE to your current needs and how to start BreakfastBriefWhiteconsidering what your next steps will be.

Register via this link.

Please note we are now making a small charge for breakfast briefings, refundable on attendance.  See link for details.

 Contact us for help – our Raiser’s Edge services include training and consultancy, database management on demand, signposting and health checks.

Raiser’s Edge – Database Management on Demand

Managing your database or CRM can be complex. It’s something else to ‘keep on top of’, and that can be hard when you are already juggle multiple tasks. Not to mention wasting time trying to figure things out for yourself, when an expert could tell you in a few minutes.

On paper, the solution to this challenge is easy – hire a database administrator.  But if you can’t justify the cost, don’t have the space or don’t feel you’ll get best benefit from a full or part time colleague, then where do you turn?

Database Management on Demand(DBMOD) offers you the skills, capability and flexibility of a Raiser’s Edge Database Administrator, without the need to actually employ one!

By using this service you will be able to manage the day-to-day, and start to focus your time on what your data is telling you – enabling you to improve your fundraising operations.

What this service offers you

  •  A skilled, experienced Raiser’s Edge database management consultant will be allocated to support you – based on your organisation’s requirements and the consultant’s skills and experience.
  • A response within a guaranteed time frame for phone and onsite support requirements.
  • A monthly report will detail the hours you have used so you can keep track of the support you have had, and the support that remains – helping you plan how you best use the time available.
  • A quick turnaround to produce queries and reports.
  • Help with mailings and communications, for example, de-duping data, flagging supporter records, advice on tracking and ROI.
  • Guidance on systems admin tasks, such as importing data, adding new users and cleaning data.
  • Ad hoc training for you and your team.

Support Packages

  • We offer three packages of support – 10, 25 and 50 hours.  The ten hour package costs £900 (ex VAT).
  • We are offering a special introductory rate for our 10 hour package – making the cost just £765 (ex VAT) for ten hours of an experts time!
  • The pre-paid, fixed price model for this service is very popular- you know exactly what to budget and can maintain an overview of how you use the time to best effect.
  • It’s a great way to get support for challenges you know you will have coming up

How much support you need will depend on the size and complexity of your organisation and CRM set up.  If you’re not sure, please ask us.

Why work with us

Purple Vision are specialists in supporting charities and non-profits with databases and CRM, digital and analytics.  In over ten years of operations, we have supported hundreds of organisations of all sizes to achieve their goals and objectives, transform the way they work and deliver top quality fundraising and services.

We are an independent consultancy, which means we are not tied to particular services and providers, but work with partners where we feel that they have a product that is right for our customer’s needs.  We are a small core team, complimented by expert associate consultants.

We’re based in London (just near Oval tube station), but work across the UK and Europe.

Book now!

Call Keith Collins, Customer Solutions Director via 0845 458 0250 or email [email protected] to find out more – quote the DBMOD offer.

If you have questions about this offer and our Raiser’s Edge expertise and services, please do just ask Keith.

* The Small Print

The offer of 15% off is for the 10 hour contract only, if booked by 19th December 2014.  The following tasks are outside the scope of this service, but can be quoted separately – project management, CRM implementation, business process reviews and customer journeys,  major redevelopments.  Please ask if you have questions.


If you would like to hear from someone we have worked with before, please let us know – we’ll happily connect you to past clients who will be able to share what it’s like to work with us.  You can find some testimonials and case studies on this site as well as comments like these from previous users of our database services for Raiser’s Edge.

“Purple Vision were highly recommended to me by another school. Our team is very small (1.4 FTE), so the expertise on tap is useful to help deal with the more complex but time consuming administrative tasks on the database.  This frees up my time tremendously, but it’s also good to be able to tap into expert knowledge on quite detailed matters and sort a resolution fairly quickly.  My database is much cleaner and heading towards a state that I’d like the data to be in – clean, accurate, easily filtered/queried/report and most importantly – useful.  I’d recommend Purple Vision’s Database Management on Demand service to other organisations using Raiser’s Edge”  Russell Joyce – Colfe’s School


“Purple Vision were recommended to us to help with Raiser’s Edge. We chose the Database Management on Demand service as this gives us the flexibility for training, support and back up to be used as and when it’s needed. A specific highlight of working with Purple Vision was a training day set up for the Fundraising Team at Aspire. We covered Queries and Actions and this was a huge benefit to the team making them aware of what the database can do and giving them some confidence in how to use it. I would definitely recommend Purple Vision to other organizations using Raiser’s Edge”  Karen Leary  – Aspire 


Purple Vision helped us to build the confidence across our fundraising team in using Raiser’s Edge. We developed a training programme in partnership based on the areas we knew needed strengthening. We had different sessions including the gift batching process, using Queries for reporting and analysis as well as a full run through of how to operate the admin area. It has helped build our capacity and understanding of Raiser’s Edge across the department, and we will certainly be returning to Purple Vision when more Raiser’s Edge training is required.”  Peter Cashman – Coram


Read our blog:

Have you got your Raiser’s Edge coding right? –  Our very own Dan Lockeretz gives his best advice about the importance of getting the structure right.  This link opens a new window with the blog.

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.

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.


Life after The Rasier’s Edge

What comes next for users of the world’s most successful donor database?

Although The Raiser’s Edge remains an integral part of many fundraising operations, our trusted and familiar friend is showing its age and being overtaken by younger rivals better suited to the new age of multi-channel communications.

Only last year Blackbaud confirmed there will be no major upgrade to Version 7. Love it or loathe it, life without The Raiser’s Edge is a big change to contemplate. Here’s an outline of the issues we believe The Raiser’s Edge users need to start considering – both short-term fixes and long-term strategic choices . . .

Where is The Raiser’s Edge today?

The Raiser’s Edge is the world’s most successful donor database used by more than 15,000 non-profits to raise £billions every year. It was built in the 1980s for a world of paper-based direct marketing, personalised key partnership fundraising, and donations made via cash and cheques. Over the years it has grown to support the many specialised business processes associated with fundraising, and has been supplemented through a series of complementary tools including:

  • Net Community – a suite of web tools that enable online giving, integrated email marketing, and donor self-service
  • Blackbaud Direct Marketing (BBDM) – a toolkit to enable large-scale direct marketing to be driven and analysed
  • API – an Application Programming Interface – which some clients have used to connect the Raiser’s Edge with their web sites and other online systems.

The focus has been on extending Blackbaud’s product offerings and making them work together, rather than with products and services offered by other suppliers – even when those products and services might be well-liked and offer better features for clients.

What is changing and why is The Raiser’s Edge becoming outdated?

A growing number of Raiser’s Edge users are struggling to achieve integrated, enterprise-wide supporter engagement. These organisations aspire to achieve true multi-channel fundraising, marketing and supporter care. They want a cohesive single customer view that enables them to recognise and respond to supporters with complete knowledge, wherever they choose to engage, including use of best of breed technology from different partners.  In addition to this, they want to benefit from cloud-based technologies to reduce the complexity and cost of IT and (literally) mobilise their staff and volunteers by giving them access to systems wherever they need them, close to their supporters where the fundraising actually happens.

These new demands means CRM solutions need to be open, flexible, cost-effective and user-friendly – none of which are really strengths of The Raiser’s Edge.

What does Blackbaud say?

If your organisation shares these aspirations, and you are frustrated by the limitations of The Raiser’s Edge, here’s what Blackbaud announced at its 2012 Conference*:

“play nice with others”
Contrary to rumour, there will be no RE8. Instead, Blackbaud aims to make RE7 more open and connective. Whilst this is encouraging, to date this extends mostly to their own products including mobile, merchant services, hosting, finance, advocacy and analytics tools.

“Blackbaud ♥ Salesforce”
Blackbaud’s acquisition of Convio in 2012 may have helped to plug some of the gaps in its capabilities for online fundraising, especially the much heralded connector for The Raiser’s Edge and Luminate Online. However, this was promised for Q1 2013 and, so far, there is no sign. Furthermore, the Salesforce-based Luminate CRM system will not be available to clients outside North America because the company is not able to offer global support.

“BBCRM is the next generation”
Blackbaud is placing emphasis on its big brother BBCRM product, especially for organisations operating “at enterprise scale”. BBCRM is feature rich and a good option for larger charities looking to upgrade. However, it is a big and complex undertaking with a price tag to match. So far in the UK, only a handful of charities have taken this step. Unless it is simplified, BBCRM does not offer a realistic option for small and medium sized RE users.

* Jana Eggers, SVP Products and Marketing, at BBCon 2012, Washington DC

What do we think?

Whilst The Raiser’s Edge remains fit for purpose today, Blackbaud currently has no clear development route for mid-market users.

We know that many fundraisers are already looking for:

  • Cross-organisational CRM, addressing both effectiveness and efficiency
  • Single supporter view, incorporating better marketing and supporter care
  • Multi-channel data and communications
  • Easy integration with third party products and online services

Regrettably, The Raiser’s Edge cannot fully support these requirements and Blackbaud has not yet announced a credible alternative.  However, there is some evidence of where things are heading …

Online Fundraising

Over the years the company has repeatedly acquired rival vendors and has chosen not to fully develop their best products (e.g. Sphere and Common Ground). However, exceptions to this could be the recent acquisitions of Heroix (Everyday Hero) and Luminate (Convio).  These are very effective tools for online fundraising and could be even more powerful in combination with the Raiser’s Edge, if they can be well integrated. Both of these products could extend the life of the Raiser’s Edge until a more modern replacement is developed.

Off-the-Shelf CRM

Back in 2007, Blackbaud acquired eTapestry, an innovative donor management tool and one of the first SaaS solutions for fundraising. Perhaps because it was ahead of its time, eTapestry was not developed, at least not until now.  Blackbaud has dusted it off and is now marketing it as an alternative for customers at the smaller end of the CRM market.  It’s low-cost, simple and requires little overhead to set up and use.  It certainly won’t do everything that RE can do, but if all you need is a simple accessible database that works, it’s a good option.

Project Bluebird

Despite the deafening silence from Charleston about new products, we don’t think Blackbaud has forgotten about its enormous base of medium-sized customers.  These are the fundraising charities that rely on RE day in, day out, and who dutifully pay their licence fees. The (as yet unannounced) development plan for this vital market is known as Project Bluebird.  In essence, Project Bluebird focuses on the principal tools and features required for donor management and aims to rebuild them using Blackbaud’s “Infinity” platform that was originally developed for its flagship BBCRM product. As a result, the company hopes to create a modern, accessible and cost effective solution that will be an attractive step forward for its middle majority of current RE users.  We understand that Project Bluebird is now in pre-beta testing and we look forward to seeing it.

What can you do?

Privately, people at Blackbaud accept that The Raiser’s Edge is approaching the end of its life.  Not only is the technology outdated, but also it’s just too big. It has so many features and functions intended for the widest range of clients that finding a single replacement is not feasible.  So, we think that Blackbaud’s vision of life after RE will be to encourage users to choose from a range of tools, from the simplest to the most sophisticated and with various combinations of CRM and online fundraising solutions, depending on your need and budget.

So we recommend that you start to think about the technology you will need to support your fundraising over the next five years. Here’s how:

  1. Encourage a debate within your organisation – do you need to do ‘whole-organisation CRM’? Do you need to deliver integrated multi-channel marketing, fundraising and customer care? If the answer is ‘yes’, you need to start moving now. If not, then the Raiser’s Edge may continue to serve your needs.
  2. Think outside the fundraising department and identify the scope of CRM. Reach out to colleagues in communications, policy and service delivery. Consider what teams, data and business processes need to be brought together – and what it all means from the customer’s perspective.
  3. Start to identify long-term strategic options for your technology now, whilst you still have time. Remember the 80:20 rule – today your income is around 80% offline; 20% online but this will reverse in the future.
  4. In the short-term, try out new tools and channels, as appropriate to your current needs, by integrating them wherever you can with your current system. Useful options include:

If you want to hear more on this subject and share your experience with other RE users, we will be holding a series of briefings and discussions, starting with a Breakfast Briefing on Thursday 25th July 2013.