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Thank you for visiting Connection Café. We’ve recently relocated to our new home, npENGAGE. You can find our latest content, as well as our full archives, on npengage.com.

Thanks again and we look forward to seeing you on npENGAGE!

Introducing npENGAGE

Posted by Cheryl Black at Sep 27, 2012 09:23 AM CDT
Categories: Nonprofit Trends, NPtech

There’s a new kid on the nonprofit blogosphere block. It is both an all encompassing one-stop-shop and a tailored-to-you destination. I may be quite biased but I think it is going to knock your socks off.

Ladies and gentlemen, without further ado, I am pleased to present to you npENGAGE.

introducing npengage

To know npENGAGE is to know three key elements.

First, npENGAGE is home to nine blogs, each customized to a different need of the nonprofit sector. As a reader, you’ll have the flexibility to consume information across the whole spectrum or to just subscribe to the individual blog that speaks to your needs and interests.

npENGAGE’s blogs are

Second, npENGAGE is built on the content from five leading nonprofit blogs, including Connection Café. The content of those five blogs will populate the npENGAGE archives and ensure that each individual blog within npENGAGE starts strong. This will give npENGAGE the unique distinction of being a new site with years of proven, useful content already present.

Third, Connection Café will redirect to npENGAGE starting this weekend. If you are an RSS subscriber to Connection Café, your feed will be automatically updated with the main npENGAGE feed. From there you can decide if the main feed is right for you or if one of the more specialized feeds is a better fit.

If you have questions about npENGAGE or your Connection Café subscription, please ask in the comments below or by email.

Finally, thank you so very much for being a part of Connection Café. Your feedback, passion and sense of mission inspired our bloggers to contribute every week. We look forward to more of the same in our new home on npENGAGE!

See you there!

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Sustainers and Recurring Giving at bbcon!

Posted by Sally Heaven at Sep 21, 2012 10:03 AM CDT
Categories: Fundraising, NPtech

Show me the moneyWe're just 9 days away from the start of bbcon! I already told you what to expect on the advocacy front, so now it's time for a little self-promotion. Yours truly will be co-presenting a session on Sustainers, called Leave No Recurring Revenue on the Table along with David Glass from World Wildlife Fund.

Sustaining giving is the most valuable investment your organization can make - it's cost-effective and encourages retention and engagement. In Europe, it's all about monthly bank drafts for supporting charities. But in the USA, the emphasis is still on acquisition of one-time gifts, and first-time donors churn all too often. This makes the cost of fundraising too high. A sustaining giving program, if it exists at all, is promoted weakly as a special thing off to the side.

David and I think that USA-based nonprofit organizations need to turn this paradigm on its head. We should make sustaining giving the norm. In addition to World Wildlife Fund, there are other nonprofits who are doing just that. We'll take a look at some examples of how, and David will show us a program that WWF invested in and promoted that has yielded great results. We'll also discuss some trends in recurring giving and take a peek at segments.

That's all the spoilers you're going to get from me, so make sure to attend our session at bbcon. It's on Sunday, September 30 at 4:15pm. Our session is in the "Interactive" track, so we'll also focus heavily on online sustainers and we'll take a look at some configurations in Luminate Online that you should make to maximize the ROI.

There are other awesome sustainer sessions too in addition to ours:

Attracting Loyal Donors through Sustainer Giving Programs presented by Carol Rhine, Principal Consultant at Target Analytics, a Blackbaud Company - this session is also on September 30 at 4:15pm. Carol's session approaches sustainers from the analytics side - why you want to have them, how to find them in your file and how to effectively solicit them. If you're conflicted about whether to attend my session or Carol's, I say go to both - send your online person to ours, and your direct mail manager to Carol's.

Same Time Next Month: Building a Multi−Channel Sustainer Program presented by Steve Kehrli from PETA, Amy Day from Dumb Friends League, and Chas Offut from Blackbaud - on October 2 at 11:00am. Steve, Amy and Chas are going to look at sustainers through the lens of a multichannel approach, and will focus on both online and offline programs.

And if you tell me that you're not yet registered, then I'll shake my head in disbelief, and point you to www.bbconference.com to register today. See you there!

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Year End Giving for Event Fundraisers

Posted by Robyn Mendez at Sep 18, 2012 08:50 AM CDT
Categories: Email Marketing, Fundraising

Part 2 of 2: Year End Campaign Planning for Event Fundraisers

Yesterday, I reviewed some of the reasons why engaging your event’s participants and donors in year end giving is a smart idea. Today, I’m going to give you some practical tips and tricks to help you get started on planning your event’s end-of-year campaign.

What’s typically included in a basic end of year campaign?

A basic end of year campaign includes a series of fundraising solicitations starting on the day after Thanksgiving and run through New Year’s Eve. For events, I’d recommend you use your event branding to guide the look and feel of your year end communications and that you focus on your online communication channels - Email, Website and Social Media. 

Steps to Kick Start your event’s Year End Campaign:

  1. Ensure event fundraising is open Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day.  For fall events, this may require you to keep fundraising open through the end of the year. For spring events, this may mean that you should open your event registration prior to the Thanksgiving holidays.  If this is not an option, then direct people to your organizations general donation form or to the form that is being used for your general year end giving form.
  2. Coordinate with your traditional giving peers. If your office is already running an end of year campaign, be sure to coordinate with your development peers to ensure that you are coordinating your messages. The goal of your work is to compliment, not compete with the efforts of the other fundraising groups within your organization.
  3. Develop a documented communication plan. Assuming that you are already documenting a communication plans for your event, this EOY communication planning should be an addition to your overall event communications. Focus on email as the driving force behind of your year end strategy, which are reinforced through social media updates.

    Communication Timing: Your first email and all your website & donation form content updates should be completed on Black Friday.  Additional email updates can be scheduled sproatically through out the 6 week window.  The week between Christmas & New Year's is also critical.  Be sure to schedule an email for the last business day before New Years Eve and also for New Year's Eve. 

    Primary Audiences:  current participants, past participants who haven't registered, current donors and past donors who have not contributed.  It's really important that you tailor your messages based on the relationship that the prospective donor has to your event and your organization. Depending on your level of comfort with your email tools, this may require that you conditionalize content within a single email or that you send multiple emails.   
  4. Socialize the your communication plan internally. This ensures that others within your organization are knowledgable of your activities and also help eliminate the chance that you might be overlapping year end communications with your other development peers. 

    Tip from the Pros:  Be sure to include donors to both the event's end of year campaign or your traditional giving group's campaign in your email exclusion groups.  The quickest way to annoy your donors is to send requests once they have already contributed to your organization.
  5. Create your Year End campaign content. By the nature of their relationship to your event’s participants & donors have a unique reference point to your organization, you should be focusing on the unique aspects of that relationship. I'd recommend centering in on 2 for 1 nature of year end gift to peer-to-peer fundraising program. Their tax-deductible gift can supporting a loved one, while at the same time supporting your mission.  My colleague Ken Cantu posted this clever mad libs year end template to help you nail down the content basics.

    Unique Year End Campaign Ideas for Events:
    • Email your current participants reminding them to contribute to their own fundraising
    • Email last year’s donors who have not given this year encouraging them to donate this year
    • Include an request to register in your email to past participants who haven't registered
    • Email last year’s participants who haven’t registered this year – You can’t attend this year? Donate instead!
    • Place a self donation link in the participant center  
    • In emails to donors, provide a link to the participant search screen in addition to the event donation form
    • Create a sense of urgency in social media posts by focusing on the # of days until New Year's

  6. Build out your content. Build out emails, develop website updates and document your social media posts in advance. Many email and website content tools like Luminate Online and Sphere allow you to actually build out and schedule emails or website updates. Taking care of this during the Fall will take pressure off of creating assets in the middle of the campaign or, even better, allow you to enjoy your vacation while your Year End Campaign is on auto-pilot.
  7. Embrace your inner nerd and run some reports. I’m a HUGE advocate for using data to determine campaign successful and opportunities for improvement. For Year End Campaigning, focus on comparing stats year over year stats from the specific time period that you were running the year end campaign, in theory this would be from the day after Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. Some of my favorite metrics for measuring Year end campaigns are total event fundraising, donation counts and average gift amount. Think about tracking these data points day by day basis, then overlaying your communication schedule. This will help you determine which specific messages, posts or tweets generated the most traffic for your campaign.

What are your event's plans for the end of year soliciations? We'd love to hear what has worked for you or see some of your appeals, tell me about them in the comment area below or shoot me an email at robyn.mendez@blackbaud.com.

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Year End Giving for Event Fundraisers

Posted by Robyn Mendez at Sep 17, 2012 07:34 AM CDT
Categories: Email Marketing, Fundraising

Part 1 of 2:  Why Year End Giving is a Smart Strategy for P2P Fundraisers

Money with a Bow

Last weekend Houston experienced our first “cold front” of the fall.  I use parathesis here because “cold” for SE Texas in early September means the high temperatures were only in the lower 90’s, which I'll admit is not really cold.  While it’s still hot here, the cooling weather is a nice reminder that fall is hear and the holidays are quickly approaching.  For nonprofit orgs and higher ed institutions, cooling temps of early fall are also a reminder that year end giving is about to kick into high gear.

As an event fundraiser, I mistakenly viewed year end giving as an isolated campaign ran by our traditional giving development staff that didn’t really have anything to do with my events.  Since I was leading fall event campaigns, the holidays in November & December were a nice down time immediately following the busy event season devoted to planning and a couple weeks of well-deserved vacation time.  This was a huge missed opportunity for my events, like rejecting a stack of cash that was handed to me with pretty red bow.  My siloed thinking blinded me to the fundraising opportunity that could have bolstered my event fundraising during the last 6 weeks of the calendar year.

End-of-year giving is critical for fundraising events for two primary reasons:

  1. There is a significant number of donors who are motivated by the tax-deductible nature of gift to a nonprofit organization and want to contribute before the close of the calendar year. 
  2. Peer-to-peer or event fundraising provides a unique way for donors to give tax-deductible gift to a charity while also supporting a friend or family member.  It’s twice the bang for same dollar!

To further drive home the point that there is a tremendous amount of charitable giving that is taking place during this small window of time from Thanksgiving to New Years Day, I've pulled together a couple stats: 

Bottom line… lots of people are donating lots of money during the last six weeks of the year. As an event fundraiser, you want that money to be supporting your event and your organization's mission. You are providing a unique and interesting opportunity for your donors through the P2P giving model that is different than your traditional giving peers.  Additionally, by taking a proactive approach to managing year end giving communications, you can help avoid situations where your event participants and event donors feel thier contributions to your event are underappreciated. 

Now that you are sold on why incorporating year end giving into your event's fundraising strategy is a smart idea, it's time to come up with a game plan to make your event the attractive option for this pool of donors. Tomorrow, I’ll be highlighting some tips & strategies to take the standard end of year giving model and flip it around to support P2P Fundraising Campaigns in a way that doesn’t compete with your participant’s fundraising efforts and also compliments the efforts of your traditional giving peers.

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Common Ground Q&A with Idealware

Posted by Karoline McLaughlin at Sep 13, 2012 10:25 AM CDT
Categories: NPtech

A couple weeks ago, we announced the retirement of Common Ground to help focus our CRM products serving small- to mid-sized nonprofits. Understandably, there have been many questions surrounding the decision to retire Common Ground, including the options available to nonprofits currently using that product and our continued commitment to Salesforce. To provide more information and clarity, Jana Eggers, our Senior VP of Products and Marketing, recently answered the following questions on the Idealware blog.

1. Common Ground seemed to hold a specific, useful niche in the CRM space, and at Idealware, we’re disappointed to see it go. In light of its viability in this market, why did you choose to retire this particular product?
After the acquisition of Convio, the combined team evaluated our full product portfolio. For fundraising and CRM products serving small- to mid-sized nonprofits, this meant looking at Common Ground, eTapestry, and The Raiser's Edge. In three months, we reviewed the solutions, evaluated current customer usage, looked at industry reports, and talked to customers about their future needs – all efforts focused on determining which solutions would most drive success and satisfaction for nonprofits.
It was a difficult decision, as all of the solutions have strong presence and benefits. And, the Salesforce.com platform was one clear benefit of Common Ground.  In the end, the decision netted down to:

  • Decreasing the number overlapping products. We could not define a clear market for Common Ground that did not almost fully overlap with eTapestry and The Raiser’s Edge.
  • The amount of investment needed to bring Common Ground to the state customers expect from a full-featured fundraising and CRM solution. It is at an earlier stage than our other two products.
  • Number of customers impacted. eTapestry has over 10,000 nonprofits using the product. Common Ground has about 400.

And we also had:

  • eTapestry with a proven track record of providing a simple, easy to use, and affordable solution for over 10,000 nonprofits.
  • The Raiser’s Edge as the market leader for nonprofits and provides the most complete solution for a nonprofit's fundraising and CRM needs, being used by over 13,000 nonprofits.
  • eTapestry and The Raiser’s Edge with integrated Internet capabilities and add-on solutions, and a robust partner and cohort network to lower the cost of deployment and use.

Minimizing the number of customers impacted by any decision and maximizing our customers’ ability to be successful was the key part of our decision.

We are working with all Common Ground clients to discuss their specific options moving forward.
2. If Blackbaud felt Common Ground was extraneous, it stands to reason that other products in your line are similarly extraneous—what does the future hold for Luminate CRM, Sphere CRM or other related products in the Blackbaud line?
Extraneous is not how we felt about the product. This was a difficult decision and we did not take lightly the impact we would have on customers or partners. The decision came down to us being able to better serve the nonprofit industry by focusing on eTapestry and The Raiser’s Edge in this area.
This is not new for us, though some have argued we haven’t done it enough. Sphere CRM is one example of how Blackbaud has refocused a product. After our acquisition of Kintera in 2008, we went through a similar review process and decided to focus that product on the peer-to-peer fundraising space and to stop offering it as a CRM product. Since then, the vast majority of customers who were using the Sphere CRM functionality have moved to other Blackbaud products and are much happier than before.
Regarding Sphere, again, we looked at customer impact and market served in this review. Sphere supports over 3500 customers, and specifically serves small to mid-sized nonprofits well. Team Raiser supports larger nonprofits well for their peer-to-peer fundraising needs. The markets are distinct.
Regarding Luminate CRM, we are committed to the Salesforce.com platform. We see a group of organizations adopting the platform – a psychographic more than a demographic, in this case. We believe that for those organizations, the Salesforce.com platform is the right solution and we want to support them with the best nonprofit-specific solution on that platform. We have a roadmap for Luminate CRM’s continued development and are integrating it with other Blackbaud offerings, like Blackbaud Direct Marketing and Blackbaud Merchant Solutions. We believe the Salesforce.com platform will continue to play an important role in the nonprofit industry and we will continue to develop on it and integrate our products with it.
3. The result of this action is that Blackbaud is consolidating product. In the Content Management Space, you currently have three tools: NetCommunity, Luminate CMS and Sphere CMS. Do you plan to retire some of these products to consolidate that line, as well?
Blackbaud has solutions in the online fundraising and engagement space which requires a certain amount of content management functionality to support those needs. Most of our clients use these products in conjunction with another CMS.
Let me explain the different markets the products you mention serve:

  • Blackbaud NetCommunity only works with The Raiser's Edge and Education Edge. It is optimized to work with these Blackbaud solutions, but it is not a standalone internet marketing and fundraising solution.
  • Luminate Online, while integrated with Luminate CRM and soon to be integrated with The Raisers’s Edge, is a standalone solution. This serves the needs of nonprofits that want to start with internet marketing and fundraising independently of their CRM solution.
  • Sphere (as covered above in #2) serves the peer-to-peer fundraising needs of small and mid-sized nonprofits.

4. What is Blackbaud’s vision for Common Ground users in April 2014 when the product is discontinued? Will the system be turned off? Should users be looking to migrate to a new system now?
First, there is no immediate disruption to Common Ground customers. They do not need to migrate now. We are working with each customer to build individual plans to migrate them efficiently. These plans will include incentives such as implementation, conversion, and comparable pricing.
Although we hope that all of our Common Ground customers will move to another Blackbaud solution, we recognize that some may want to pursue other options. We are committed to treating every Common Ground customer, regardless of their choice, with the sincere and thoughtful care they deserve.
As a summary:

  • Before March 31, 2014, we will work with each Common Ground customer to support their migration to another solution.
  • We will not extend current contacts ending before March 31, 2014 past March 31, 2014.
  • We will continue to fulfill our contractual obligations to clients with valid contracts past March 2014 through the end of their contract.
  • After March 31, 2014 or the end of the contract with a specific customer, whichever is later, that customer’s users will not be able to access the Common Ground package, the support portal, or external applications that run Common Ground Fundraising, like online forms.

We will be addressing questions collected from the Common Ground community during [yesterday's] Common Ground Town Hall meeting and encourage people to attend for the latest updates.
5. Is Blackbaud considering making Common Ground available to users beyond the sunset, or retirement, date by either extending the managed package licenses indefinitely, making Common Ground available as a no-cost, unmanaged package through the App Exchange or another platform, and/or releasing the Common Ground code under an open source license?
We will not be offering options like these because we don’t believe they are ultimately in the best interest for our customers.
6. As you think about the Blackbaud roadmap and continuing to innovate your products, how will you decide what innovations to take on?  As you have a number of different products on different platforms, does your roadmap involve concentrating on specific products, integrating product together, or somehow trying to build features that enhance a number of your products at once?
To drive product decisions, we consider many aspects: customer needs, opportunity fit, market and product status, and a business analysis. Consideration of platform is part of this analysis, but not an overriding factor.
To drive innovation, we use a Discovery process to go deeper into the customer needs and drive to an understanding of how we can solve those needs well. Product experts across engineering, product management and user experience work together to accomplish this. As an example, it is not uncommon in this process to talk to 30 clients and iterate on 25 prototypes before writing a single line of code. If you want to read more about the general methodology we follow, check out Inspired: How to Create Products that Customers Love.
And we are absolutely interested in making sure products that should integrate together do -- like we have with The Raiser's Edge and Blackbaud Net Community, Blackbaud CRM and Blackbaud Internet Solutions, and in the future both The Raiser's Edge and Blackbaud CRM will integrate with Luminate Online.
Our guiding principle for our products is for nonprofits to say: ”Because of Blackbaud I spend more time on my mission.”

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