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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.

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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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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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Key Performance Indicators

Posted by Katie Beth DeSchepper at Sep 10, 2012 11:17 AM CDT
Categories: Fundraising, NPtech

Today, we have many things to worry about, watch for, measure, monitor and just deal with in general. With the increased social landscape, it seems like there is just so much to think about, but how do you identify what to prioritize

Key Performance Indicators, or KPIs, should be quick, easily understood, and comprehensive. A tall order I know. There are several that should be standard like gross revenue year-to-date, year-over-year, number of donors, average giving, total number of unique contacts, and I would stick my neck out there and say, net revenue year-to-date (a tricky one for sure). 

However, there are several KPIs that we all monitor and measure in our daily lives that translate well into additional KPIs that I would recommend. Do you know what portion of your revenue year-over-year is coming from each channel?

Do you know what portion of contacts come from each channel? Do you know the value, conversion rate, frequency of action or giving each of those contact groups account for? 

KPI Charts

As you can see from the chart above, 50% of the revenue to the organization is stemming from 38% of the donor base. With this knowledge, you can start to think about the next drill down to make sure that this group is doing well and its portfolio is healthy. The KPIs to monitor this group should include portion of acquisition source, retention rate, value-to-date, average gift, and frequency of giving. If we are to see that this group stems mostly from a channel that is not performing well today, it would have a higher sense of importance to fix it or provide it more focus?  Understanding its value and relative importance to the bottom line of today will help us make better decisions tomorrow.

Think about what channel gives you the biggest bang for your short and long-term dollar. By highlighting these new KPIs, it is a point-of-view allowing you to manage and diversify your donor portfolio.

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You Kids Stay Outta The Spam Folder

Posted by Sally Heaven at Sep 04, 2012 03:27 PM CDT
Categories: Email Marketing, NPtech

Spam - Free Samples!Spam. Nobody likes receiving it, nobody likes being considered a spammer. But as users of any email marketing tool can tell, sometimes constituents will mark your messages as spam anyway.

Why? Well, it goes to constituent perception. You may have heard the expression "Spam is in the eye of the beholder." If someone doesn't believe that they signed up for your list - even if they did - and it's too hard to find the unsubscribe link, then they're just as likely to hit the "REPORT SPAM" button.

As numerous procedural crime dramas have noted, the human memory can be notoriously faulty. Someone who signed themselves up for an email list can forget they did it - especially in the year 2012 when electronic and web signup forms are pervasive.

In the interests of staying out of the spam folder, here are some tips:

Problem 1 - long lag time between paper signature collection and welcome email. If you're collecting signatures on a paper petition, make sure you data-enter those names right away. If you send them to a data entry firm, they key them in upload them to the donor database and sync to your email system, 4-8 weeks can pass between the time of signature and the first welcome email. That's way too long - who will remember signing the petition at the street festival two months ago?

Solution - do data entry the next day directly into the email system. Even though it's harder to do diligent data entry every night, it will go a long way to reducing your spam rates. And you might even see an uptick in engagement and donations by the prompt followup if you strike while the iron is hot!

Problem 2 - generic welcome message that doesn't trigger the memory of having signed up. Many organizations put a lot of time into designing their welcome series, and want to get the most mileage they can out of it. When faced with a large number of new names from a specific event or online channel, it's tempting to just dump the names into the generic welcome message stream. But if the person is already having memory problems, a generic message won't help.

Solution - state the event or channel in the welcome message. Luckily, if you have a solid welcome message, you can alter it slightly. Just add an introductory paragraph - sometimes called a "love note," if it's located above the email stationery - that states "Thank you for signing up for our email list at the Earth Day 2012 Celebration in Sioux City" or "Thanks for joining our email list through the signup box on our coalition's website."

Problem 3 - can't find the unsubscribe link. Most organizations make their unsubscribe link a sutble design in the footer of the email stationery, and that's okay. But it can be hard to find, and if someone's in a hurry, they might not bother looking.

Solution - add an unsubscribe link in the body of the first paragraph. Add a sentence to your love note: "If you changed your mind and don't want to be on the list, just click here to unsubscribe." Yes, you don't WANT them to unsubscribe - but do you want an unhappy person on your list, or for them to hit the "Report Spam" button?

Put these methods into practice and monitor the results for 3-6 months. I'll bet that you'll see improvement!

What are some other ideas you've tried for reducing spam complaints?

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