Tag Archives: Fundraising tools and integrations

It’s just a phase …

Dan Lockeretz, Purple Vision Project Delivery Director shares his experience of delivering CRM implementation projects – something he’s done quite a lot of in the years he’s been a Purple Vision, and even before that in his previous life charity-side.  This is the second in a series from Dan explaining projet delivery issues. 

Turns out your family is pretty much right. About everything.  Darn it.

Remember ‘don’t bite off more than you can chew’ or ‘you’ll never manage all that’. They were right.  Not about your ability to eat the whole Christmas selection box (just me then?).  Same as they were right when they said “it’s just a phase”.

Not about your excellent taste in hairdos and clothing (just me again, then?).

But if they’d been talking about CRM implementation, they would have been absolutely bang on.

A phased approach

When considering how to blend the right CRM implementation approach for your organisation, we very much encourage a phased approach.

We advise that you start with the very minimum you need to, and then build on all the additional functionality in phased stages after that.  This is known as implementing the ‘Minimum Viable Product’ (MVP) – “a product with just enough features to gather validated learning about the product and its continued development

In the real world of CRM implementation, the MVP means delivering the system with the only the very essential feature in the first instance.


As part of any Discovery Phase, and during the collation of user stories, we would typically conduct a priority rating using the MoSCoW system.

  • Must have – essential features for success
  • Should have – should are essential features but not necessary to be delivered as immediately – they could be delivered as a second phase
  • Could have – typically these would be features that improve user experience or user satisfaction but aren’t functionally essential. If the budget will stretch to it
  • Won’t have / Would like (but probably won’t get!) – the key stakeholders agree that these are not part of the process because they are lowest payback, not immediately essential or perhaps more appropriate for a further development stage of the system (eg in a years’ time at review).

This begins the process of ascertaining what the MVP is that could be launched at the point of go-live.

This reduces the length of the initial phase, brings users on to the system as early as possible so they can actually see it and understand it, and it ensures a low priority requirement does not eat up time and budget in the first phase.

Add integrations … 

Similarly, with system integration, it is unlikely that all systems will need to be integrated in phase 1, so the process of prioritising the ‘Must Have’ points of integration applies here also.   We therefore recommend a phased approach to bringing in the different points of integration.

The downside to this approach is that it may not be completely understood how each area will be integrated or developed from the first point of go-live.

he risk therefore is that subsequent changes, additional costs, or difficult issues come up after the point at which the system is being used live.

This risk can be mitigated through thorough discovery and business analysis across all areas, so the understanding of those areas and requirements are well understood from the outset and the project team have less chance of being faced with a surprise requirement.

CRM Project methodology – which one is ‘right’?

Dan Lockeretz, Purple Vision Project Delivery Director shares his experience of delivering CRM implementation projects – something he’s done quite a lot of in the years he’s been a Purple Vision, and even before that in his previous life charity-side.  This is the first in a series from Dan looking at project delivery issues.

When talking to organisations about implementing a new CRM, one of the most common questions we’re asked is  ‘what implementation methodology do you use?’.

Sometimes, the question is very open as an organisation may never have delivered a technology implementation before, or previously experienced projects in the days before cloud technology when things were quite different.

More frequently, the organisations we work with have done some research or have more experience and will be expecting us to say that we use one of the two best-known methodologies for system development – agile or waterfall.


Waterfall is described as a sequential (non-iterative) design process, used in software development processes, in which progress is seen as flowing steadily downwards (like a waterfall) through the phases of conception, initiation, analysis, design, construction, testing, production/implementation and maintenance.


Agile is described as an iterative, incremental method of managing the design and build activities of information technology that aim to provide new product development in a highly flexible and interactive manner.

The Purple Vision approach

Over many years and hundreds of project, we have learned that the best process to adopt for a technology project is not necessarily one approach or the other, but a blend of both.

If your organisation has significant legacy systems, then there is often a need for a specific ‘go-live’ point – a moment at which the legacy system(s) should end and the new one starts.  A project like this will benefit from a waterfall approach.

The alternative to this is to manage multiple systems for a period of time, which can be complex, costly and risky.

Agile development takes a more phased approach to delivering implementations, and so is ideal for those who have little in the way of legacy systems and therefore no need to make a switch-over at a single moment.  There are lots of advantages including:

  • It engages the system users in the project at an early point and throughout the project. This means by the point of go-live those users have a good understanding of the system and have gained knowledge of the build and use of the system
  • It reduces the risk of the end product being the ‘wrong’ solution. Experience tells us it easier to manage lots of small adjustments on a frequent basis, than it is to manage large infrequent adjustments.
  • Progress is more tangible to the Project Team and engagement in the project may remain higher as a result

The disadvantage of an agile development methodology as we have experienced it, is that is requires a high-level input from process experts on the client side and can therefore impact heavily on business as usual.  If this is planned for in advance however, we believe this is the most effective way of engaging staff in the project and building a successful system with successful user adoption.

Best of both

Our best of both approach gives us flexibility to manage a project in line with an organisations requirements and needs, staff availability and other factors.

An example is a project where an organisation is planning to replace a system it has used for a number of years with something completely different – such as an out-of-date server-based system with a move to a cloud-based solution.

As the server based system may be out of date the team using it may not be able to deliver all of their key functions via this tool and may be using other tools or managing complex work-arounds.  In this situation, we would spend time looking at initiation, analysis and design of the new system (waterfall approaches) to make sure we’re developing and delivering what is needed today and not just copying what has gone before.

We would then be ready to construct and test using a more agile approach.

Which takes longer?

Neither approach is longer or shorter than the other necessarily – the critical factor is not time to deliver, but the project which is being delivered.  To identify a project timescale, we need to consider issues like the technology you’ll be using, how much work needs to be done to tailor the tool to your unique situation, how prepared you are (see another blog for more about this) and availability of key resources (like developers, trainers etc).

Other project terms you’ll hear

  • Iterative – iterative is a fancy word for repetition or frequency. Essentially, for agile developments which are iterative, the project is broken down into set blocks or sprints where work is completed.
  • Sprints – rather alarmingly for non-runners, sprints area often talked about as part of a technology implementation project. Don’t panic!  This term refers to the blocks of time in which work is developed and delivered.  It’s more common to have sprints in Agile development but it is possible to have sprints in waterfall but for different phases. It’s as much a way of everyone planning their time properly as anything else.
  • Legacy systems – this isn’t about giving money in your will. This refers to systems that you have already that may be in use that you are replacing as part of your technology project – be that an old CRM, a series of spreadsheets or anything in between.
  • Scrum – a scrum is a process used by a project delivery team to allocate work out to deliver the project – eg technical work such as things that need building, information needed from project management team, user testing, etc. Scrums cover a set period of time (eg a week, two weeks or sometimes longer).
  • User stories – this is simply a process of mapping out what the users need to be able to do in a system or with a set of functions. Mapping out and agreeing a user story means we all know what we’re working to achieve.

Can we help?

If you would like help and advice from Purple Vision regarding your CRM project, please call us via 0203 127 1249 or email us at [email protected] or via our online contact form.

Steps to success with Purple Vision non profit success pack partner, Purple Visiom

Steps to success with Salesforce

This blog by Purple Vision CEO, Steve Thomas, is about the new Non Profit Success Pack.  Purple Vision has been supporting charities to adopt NPSP since we became Salesforce partners in 2010.


Same acronym, slightly changed name – from non-profit starter pack to non-profit success pack.

A casual observer would be forgiven for suggesting that this change, announced recently by Salesforce.org with much fanfare, is little more than a minor makeover.

The technical enhancements that accompany the name change are comparatively light additions to the established core of the product which remains unchanged. But the change is significant – we believe that this shift  recognises the maturity of (arguably) the most successful software solution ever written for non-profit organisations.

In this way, we regard the Non-profit Success Pack more as a ‘coming of age’ than an ‘upgrade.

What makes NPSP unique and valuable?

Even in the world of charities it is unusual to get something for nothing. But NPSP really is a free gift. Salesforce.org, the philanthropic arm of Salesforce.com, launched the Nonprofit Starter Pack back in 2008 as an enhancement to its previous Nonprofit Template.

Since that time they have supported the solution through substantial upgrades as well as continuous enhancement releases. NPSP can be provided pre-installed with the Power of Us donated licence programme, as well as in open source code from Github.

Perhaps more significantly, by consolidating NPSP as the de facto framework for all non-profits that use the world’s best CRM system, Salesforce.org is paving the way for a whole new phase of development that will leverage its ever-evolving technology platform.

Salesforce today is almost unrecognisable from its origins as (unsurprisingly) a sales management tool. It has become a comprehensive customer-facing technology platform with

The Non-Profit Success Pack continues to provide the essential baseline that enables all non-profits to take advantage of these features with a structured but flexible framework that models their unique needs.


This unique approach to donated licences with an open source overlay has helped build a substantial and active community of tens of thousands of organisations that benefit from Salesforce.

With the latest facility for developers, partners, and even customers to build and customise their own apps and features, NPSP will encourage and support a future with even greater diversity, innovation and collaboration.

What does NPSP actually do?

In a nutshell – it’s a special layer on top of the core Salesforce system – a data architecture designed to meet the special needs of non-profit organisations.

The key effect of NPSP is to adapt the Salesforce focus on business-to business (B2B) activities so as to more closely resemble a business-to-consumer (B2C) model that is common to charities.

NPSP sets up structures to manage

  • the relationships between individual donors,
  • their households,
  • the organisations they are associated with.

It also establishes a standard model for

  • creating and managing pledges,
  • donations,
  • recurring gifts,
  • volunteers.

Where next?

NPSP as the standard for quality, reliability and innovation

NPSP was originally intended to provide an entry point for smaller organisations to get started with Salesforce – hence the former name Starter Pack.

Those with additional requirements take advantage of the 3000+ pre-integrated third-party applications in the Salesforce AppExchange, together with bespoke development by a growing cadre of certified developers and partners (like Purple Vision).

Crucially, the success of NPSP means that it is increasingly accepted as the standard model, providing an industry-wide benchmark for organisations of all types, sizes and geographies.

The development focus for Salesforce.org in future is to constantly reinforce the central role of NPSP whilst actively encouraging customers, partners and developers to innovate on this platform.

Examples of this in the Success Pack include new features such as:

  • personal profiling,
  • in-memoriam donations
  • in-kind donations,
  • campaign tools
  • upgrading the user interface to the latest Lightning standard,
  • enabling NPSP for more languages, starting with Spanish, German and French.

Innovating with the security of a solid platform

The flexibility of the Salesforce platform means that customisation is safe and straightforward to undertake, especially with the extensive frameworks for formal accreditation and informal learning and support. With such a large community, developments evolve in all sorts of new directions. This leads to innovative and successful outcomes but also, in some cases, organisations find themselves with a system so heavily customised that they lose some of the flexibility of a common standard architecture.

At Purple Vision we believe passionately in future-proofing solutions so that our clients retain maximum flexibility around their long-term strategic objectives. We strongly support the development of universal standards such as NPSP, which mitigate the danger of over-customisation and we have been accredited by Salesforce.org as one of just four International Impact Partners formally supporting NPSP.

Wherever possible we advocate well-built, proven apps over DIY customisation.

We have tested, installed and supported scores of AppExchange solutions and we know where they work well (and where they don’t), and whether they offer value for money. As the saying goes, we prefer “clicks not code”.

Our solutions almost always involve NPSP, and we have delivered scores of successful solutions that work very effectively within this standard.

For example:

Be a non profit success with NPSP and Salesforce.org.  

Find out more about being a Salesforce success:

Take action – get started with Salesforce NPSP and Purple Vision

Purple Vision NPSP Resources



The truth about NPSP free licenses

Salesforce is free! Yippee!

Let’s talk about free licenses. NPSP – that’s Non Profit Success Pack to you and I.  NPSP is having a bit of a bask in the sunlight at the moment as it’s been relaunched by Salesforce.org the non profit arm of Salesforce.com.

The distinction between the two companies is important and is key to how you get to the free (technically, donated) licenses bit.

Every year, Salesforce.com – the big commercial organisation that services millions of users and the biggest corporations in the world – donates 1% of its time, product and profit to good causes.  This is called pledge 1%. Salesforce is very vocal about it and the role it plays in their culture.  1% of a billion dollar corporation is not something to sniff at and, let’s be honest, creates quite a lot of admin to manage all that lovely 1%-ness.

Administering the pledge

Enter Salesforce.org, the good folks to administer the pledge (this does sound a bit like you’re signing up for the temperance movement or something you do to your sideboard but do bear with the language!).

There are four key things they do:

  1. Administer the time aspect of Salesforce.com’s pledge – finding and setting up the opportunities around the donated time (with things like pro bono week, and regular staff volunteering).
  2. Make grants to deserving organisations of the 1% of profits pledged.  The grant process is pretty transparent and any organisation that qualifies can apply.  The team keep track of the projects and report on their success and help where it’s necessary
  3. Distribute the 1% of product licenses that are available as part of the pledge
  4. Manage the sales of Salesforce.com products to charities and non profits so that they get a good deal and great support

Lets wind back to point 3

NPSP is the focus of the key free product distribution.  The package is  built with the needs of non profits in mind, on a structured framework, that uses the best knowledge and experience from Salesforce.com’s R&D team (but in an open source structure).  It is a great product for charities to use for their CRM, donation management and volunteer/programme management. It’s simple, but effective. Covers the basics.

And the first ten licenses of this product are free.  The Power of Us license offer donates  10 user licenses to any organisation that has the required charitable status. You log on and download.

So, are you looking for the catch?  On the face of it there is no catch.  This is a genuinely free offer.  A really and truly free lunch, so to speak. And a posh lunch at that – that’s about £10,000 worth of license costs.

Purple Vision take on this is that this presents a challenge to an organisation, but also a massive opportunity, too.


Salesforce is quite a system.  So, someone in your organisation has to know how it hangs together to make sure it works for you. You can take NPSP ‘out of the box’ so to speak, and can make it work  – if you have the time and that kind of mind.  But we know that not many organisations necessarily do.   When you’re faced with something new it can feel like a beast to get something set up like you want it to.  So yes, the truth is that these licenses are free for 10 users.

The challenge comes in using them.  The reality is that you will likely need the support from a Salesforce partner to help you get up and running unless you can invest the time and cash into a staff member taking the Salesforce certifications you’ll need.  For some organisations who need or want a huge amount of customisation or have specific functionality requirements, this will carry some costs – though there are options that build on the NPSP framework and offer managed packages of functionality that may prove more cost effective.  For example Causeview for fundraising, or SageLive for accounting. These are typically great for medium sized, more established charities.

For smaller charities or new starters to CRM, cost is a major factor.  Limited time and budgets often place a limit on ambition.  This is why we offer our NPSP QuickStart package, to get charities up and running with the basics (no frills, no fuss and all that) for a fixed fee.  As budget is freed up you can add other features if you want to.

In all honesty though any other system – CRM or otherwise – that you might consider for your non profit would typically also come with similar kind of challenge.  In that circumstance, you typically wouldn’t be getting the license for free, and set up and management more complex.  All systems carry some kind of cost, it’s one of the facts of life.

The Opportunity

The Salesforce.org offer brings you access to more than just 10 free licenses.  It lays open all the other tools and options that Salesforce has to offer, too.  Beyond more licenses – which, yes, you do have to pay for (at a discount of around 76% on ‘big company’ fees) – there is a whole world of Salesforce.  There are specialist tools that integrate with Salesforce that cover every aspect of non profit management and cover everything from marketing (email, social, mobile and web in one integrated package), through to service delivery, business intelligence and analytics with more added all the time as Salesforce.com grows and grows.

All of these are available to non profits at a discount rate too.  Not free, but at significantly lower rates than the ‘big companies’ pay.  No two ways about it, making the world a better place becomes easier with the right technology. And with the same technology that major corporations have, your challenge instead becomes ability to deploy these tools to accelerate your mission.  Which is a much nicer problem to have than the one about stagnating performance and doing the same thing over and over again because it’s all you have the tools, time and resource for.

Complete circle

By this point, most of us have got to the point where we’re saying ‘hey, aren’t we paying Salesforce.org for our extra licenses and tools but they are a charitable organisation?’  Well, they are and yes, you are.  When you pay for your extra licenses, you pay for the infrastructure that supports non profits to be able to take advantage of this fantastic opportunity – it needs a team who know what they’re doing to make it happen, just as any other organisation does.  The advantage with the Salesforce.org model is that anything they turn over beyond overhead goes straight into the grant making pot and becomes funding for other non profits who are also trying to change the world.   Point four and two of the list above refers.


I think we can call this whole thing a bit of a win-win really.  If you’re thinking that this isn’t actually a free lunch, maybe you’re right – it might be more of a two for one deal. But the truth is, non profits deserve world-class products to help them succeed.  Salesforce is offering a genuine leg-up  here for organisations looking at CRM for the first time, as well as those looking to switch systems from messy and outdated donor databases. And the NPSP is just perfect for anyone looking to make that leap forward.


Purple Vision have been Salesforce partners since 2010 and are Salesforce.org International Impact Partner, Registered Consulting Partner, AppExchange partner and Independent Software Vendors (meaning we can create and sell our own products on Salesforce).  We’re also one of only 4 UK partners to be approved NPSP partners.

If you’ve got questions about Salesforce, how to get started or want to chat through NPSP QuickStart or our other Salesforce services, please just give us a ring on 0203 176 1249.


Snowgoose, Just Giving and Salesforce

What Napoleon’s height teaches us about Online Fundraising (Snow Goose)

Everyone knows that Napoleon was short.

Except…he wasn’t. He was average for the time, around 5’7″.

How did we get it so wrong? Well, turns out in French inches, he was 5’2″, and due to our inability to measure him, we just assumed he was short. This mistake has been passed down through generations, been used to explain his motivation, and even helped coin the ‘Napoleon Syndrome’ for short people supposedly trying to compensate. For such a simple measurement mistake, this has had some pretty big ramifications.

Our failure to accurately measure Napoleon is understandable. Even today it’s considered impolite to rush up to a man holding a measuring stick. Even on the third date…

What do we fail to measure in the Fundraising world that we should be measuring? Today’s topic is online fundraising, and it’s incredibly difficult to measure, especially when it comes in through multiple channels.

A common story among charities goes something like this. They started off with JustGiving, were lured by the lower fees of Virgin Money Giving, only to try even cheaper BT MyDonate, before trying EveryDay Hero or returning to JustGiving for the features.

Donations were flowing through three or four online fundraising systems, not to mention a CAF Donate page and a few legacy Paypal recurring donations set-up by last year’s fundraising assistant.

In this situation, you’re getting the money, but what you’re not getting is the data.

At least not in a system you can measure. This means that you can’t answer the following questions, at least not without spending a day mushing files together in Excel:

  • Who are our top 10 fundraisers? (because we want to host a dinner for them)
  • Who raised the most money last year but didn’t raise anything this year? (we might want to ask why)
  • Who has donated to at least three different fundraisers? (because they might be next year’s superstar fundraiser)
  • What are last year’s top 100 donors? (because we might want to send them a handwritten card)

We’re excited to let you in on a secret.

You can now answer these questions, even if you use every different fundraising system on the planet.

Snow Goose is a charity focused application that aggregates all of your fundraising data onto one platform. It’s based on Salesforce, so you also get all the features that come with Salesforce.

With Snow Goose, you can smoothly import data from multiple platforms and report on standardized data.

Snow Goose in action is straightforward for both the fundraiser and the rest of the staff.

Fundraisers mainly click Next half a dozen times as they monitor the import process and check for any contacts that are flagged as having conflicting data. Thousands of donors, sponsored and voluntary and donations can be imported in minutes, with duplication handled in the background.

And the rest of the staff see donations against both the eventer and the donor. Snow Goose beautifully handles this dual credit and accepts data from multiple online fundraising platform.

Which brings us back to Napoleon and his not-so-short height.

  • What mistakes are you making about your Fundraising data because you can’t measure it?
  • What impact is this having on next year’s strategy and fundraising targets?
  • Could you communicate with your donors but don’t because they aren’t in your database?

Without measuring your online fundraising across multiple channels, you can’t even know what you don’t know!

Whether Snow Goose helps Salesforce in its challenge to Blackbaud, only time will tell. But we think it’s a great addition to the Salesforce platform.

It plays nice with the old and new Non-Profit Starter Pack, as well as roundCause/ NGO Connect, which is sponsored by the Salesforce Foundation and coming to the UK soon.

Snow Goose is priced so that it’s accessible to almost any sized charity, with the price ranging from 0.7% of donation value for smaller charities, to 0.1% of donation value for the very largest.

A team of partners helps charities implement Snow Goose and optimize the data for increased fundraising and we’re delighted to have Purple Vision are one of these implementation parters

If you’d  like to know how Snow Goose can help you raise your fundraising targets, give Purple Vision a call!

More info


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

Have you got your Raiser’s Edge coding right?

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?

Raisers Edge coding structure


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.


preferred Raiser's Edge campaign structure

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).

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.


Fundraising with Salesforce

At Purple Vision we have worked for ten years advising and supporting hundreds of charities with technology for fundraising, including databases, web sites and related business processes. Today, for the first time, tools exist that enable fundraisers to achieve the long-awaited vision of a 360-degree supporter view – everything you know about each supporter in one place.

We are excited because we believe that the familiar barriers caused by fragmented systems, data silos, manual workarounds and inadequate reporting will soon be a thing of the past. We believe Salesforce offers the biggest single opportunity for every nonprofit organisation and we have produced a paper to explain why. Written by fundraisers for fundraisers who want to understand more about this opportunity, we share our experience and insights into:

  • Why Salesforce is so powerful and potentially game changing
  • What the benefits are for fundraising
  • How you can access these opportunities

You can view the paper here:

Or, if you haven’t go that much time, here it is in a nutshell:

  • Salesforce is the world-class CRM solution that powers thousands of successful organisations including Facebook, Virgin and Obama 2012
  • It is suitable for all types of nonprofits – large and small – across all functions
  • The Salesforce Foundation provides massive discounts and special configurations to suit nonprofits
  • Salesforce is built on an open technology platform so it is easier, cheaper and less risky to build and deploy
  • People love using Salesforce because it is user-friendly and intuitive
  • The AppExchange enables you to build in best-of-breed tools at the touch of a button
  • Salesforce is designed and built for online, social and mobile relationships
  • A range of fundraising tools is now available that are more effective and less expensive than those from traditional nonprofit CRM vendors

To find out more: