Blackbaud shook the nonprofit tech world last week with its announcement that they were canceling Common Ground, a popular fundraising application built on Salesforce.com and used by small to mid-sized nonprofits.
Common Ground was the brainchild of Convio, an Austin-based public software company acquired by Blackbaud in spring 2012 to the tune of $325 million. The application was a fee-based, customizable online database for capturing donations and engaging donors. It could work with a website’s front end, like forms and web profiles, and route form inputs to a database that any lay person could manage. It ran on Salesforce.com, a cloud-based online database site relatively free to nonprofits.
The news received a wide range of response, with bloggers and the Twittersphere describing Common Ground as “killed off” and speculations that Luminate, another Blackbaud fundraising application, may be next on the chopping block. There's even a petition asking Blackbaud to extend Common Ground licenses indefinitely and allow users to migrate on their own time.
“The move is ultimately good for nonprofit customers,” speculates Dan Lammot, co-founder of roundCause, a Salesforce.com fundraising suite for large, enterprise level nonprofits. “Blackbaud and Convio were not favored in the field and this move takes an application out of play that wasn't sustainable, wasn’t being invested in, and didn't belong in the marketplace.”
Migration will be a big cost and burden for the 700 orphans of Common Ground, who have until March 2014 to move to another database. Blackbaud is promoting Raiser’s Edge and eTapestry as replacements, but neither fit. Raiser’s Edge costs considerably more than Common Ground’s already expensive $100+ per seat monthly license model. eTapestry, while more affordable, is watered down; for example, it doesn’t have functionalities like Chatter, Salesforce.com’s social networking feature that allows real time chat and a group socializing platform similar to Facebook.
What’s next for nonprofit databases? Fundraising applications built on Salesforce.com are still the most popular choice for small to mid-size nonprofits. Cloud-based solutions are perfect for nonprofits with limited resources because it allows them to grow in scale at their own pace. Small to mid-size nonprofits paying for IT support and server infrastructure to host data on-site will find it costly, unreliable, and at risk to theft, natural disaster and fire. Also, Salesforce.com’s user community is supported by boutique tech shops adept at customizing Salesforce (we’re one of them).
Salesforce.com is not without its own strings. The biggest draw – being nearly free – is also “free in the way one might win keys to a jet,” comments Robert L. Weiner, the first blogger to weigh in on the Blackbaud announcement. “Would you just climb in the cockpit and start flying?”
Weiner stresses the importance of nonprofits partnering up with consultants who can get a Salesforce database off the ground and provide thorough training. Salesforce.com Foundation released a public statement of the same vein, directing Common Ground migrants to utilize one of 76 Salesforce.com certified consulting partners (we are also is on that list). A consulting partner that can customize a fundraising template may be a better road for nonprofits whose needs don’t fit any products on the market.
While nonprofit techies wave “fare thee well” to Common Ground as it’s buried among the other formerly innovative products in Blackbaud’s acquisitions graveyard, I wonder: will nonprofit decision makers still be lured to work with the database provider/goliath? I asked William Nourse, a former Raiser’s Edge user and Chief Information Officer for Citizens Schools, an enterprise nonprofit with over 500 employees. Nourse left Raiser’s Edge with the impression that Blackbaud was “mired in an older view of how one deploys technology” and signed up with Convio’s Common Ground before the Blackbaud acquisition. "I have no interest in working with Blackbaud if I can possibly avoid it," shares Nourse.
“Can I quote you on that?” I ask him.
Without hesitation: “Absolutely.”
UPDATE as of 9/10/2012:
This morning, I got the chance to speak with Blackbaud's Sr. Public Relations Manager, Melanie Mathos, about her thoughts about this blog post and the Common Ground cancellation.
Mathos requested a correction: the number of Common Ground clients is 400, not 700. She says 300 of the 400 were already on a conversion path to Luminate, an enterprise-level solution offered at Blackbaud.
In response to the phrase "acquisition graveyard", Mathos says that in Blackbaud's 30 year history of acquisitions, cancellations of acquired products are rare and that Blackbaud has "a long history of supporting products" that they've acquired.
I asked her what was next for small to mid-sized nonprofits that were well served by Common Ground, and she said she was not the right person to comment, and would recommend seeking answers at the Blackbaud/Common Ground townhall tomorrow.
Please feel free to weigh in below with your thoughts on Blackbaud's comments.]]>
Dreamforce 2008 was a watershed event in my professional career. First and foremost, I discovered how much the Salesforce.com platform had to offer, and the sheer pace of innovation and investment. I was heartened to find out how dedicated this multinational company is to corporate philanthropy and amazed by the nonprofit turnout. A little known fact is that Dreamforce is one of the largest nonprofit tech conferences in the country, with 2,000 nonprofit attendees among 46,000 total attendees expected this year.
Dreamforce offers dozens of sessions geared specifically for nonprofits, and literally hundreds more for people looking to polish their admin skills, learn to code, of find out about the latest and greatest third party integrations. Three days are chock full of interesting keynotes, hands-on sessions, networking parties, and the feature band, the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Look for more articles in the coming months with our session recommendations, and developing a game plan for this massive conference. In the meantime, register here with the discount code: NPRCST300 to secure the $300 Salesforce.com Foundation rate. This pricing is limited so register soon. We hope to see you there!
With just ten staff members, Dogwood Initiative has implemented a very successful model for deeply engaging their community in environmental protection. Groundwire has partnered with Dogwood over the past few years providing online tools and strategies.
, Dogwood’s Karl Hardin (Digital Strategy and Communications Coordinator) and Matt Takach (Operations Director) deep dive into their engagement strategy for the 2011 Federal Election in Canada.
Thanks to The Salesforce Foundation for this awesome engagement series. Special thanks to Karl Hardin and Matt Takach of Dogwood Initiative for this excellent deep dive. PS: We're not *that* geeky.
R]]> in The Salesforce Foundation's engagement series.
We're pretty sure we have the best Salesforce team around, but it was nice to hear it from the big guys. Salesforce recently released its list of Salesforce MVPs and Groundwire's CRM Program Manager Dave Manelski made this select team.
A Salesforce MVP is exactly what you think it is - that special person who goes above and beyond in the Salesforce community, demonstrating leadership, expertise, responsiveness and advocacy.
If you have ever worked with Dave on a project, you know he is the best at what he does. If you have ever worked with Dave at work, you know he's one of the best guys out there. We couldn't be more proud.]]>
Highlight features in this version include:
For a complete list of what's new, please check out the release notes. Or better yet watch the video below for a detailed walk through of the app.
The latest version is 2.x and you can get it now on Appexchange. The Install Guide and User's Guide are also updated so you can get help on working with these new features.]]>
Many leaders in this new generation are entering the workforce and have their eyes wide open to the social and environmental devastation that has resulted from living the plastic disposable, credit-card-carbon-heavy, KFC chicken bowl high life. Party is over. Hangover has set in.
So we were thrilled when Net Impact, a nonprofit headquartered in San Francisco, came to us for a full-scale redesign of their site including an integrated Salesforce.com database. Net Impact is a network of thousands of college-aged students and professionals interested in bringing sustainable and socially responsible practices to all sectors. This network doesn’t just talk about solutions -- it creates and implements solutions with the help of its large membership. This is the only way to turn this ship around -- by bringing all sectors into the mission of a healthy planet. This is part of Groundwire’s Theory of Change and we jumped at the chance to get to work with this nonprofit.
Net Impact needed a new website and an integrated, complex database to support their community of 200+ local Net Impact chapters all around the world. Many members of Net Impact's university chapters were not connected to the national organization and graduates were getting lost when they left college and joined the workforce. There was no central online community connecting the large, national network made up of local chapters.
Our strategy, web and database teams worked with Net Impact staff to create a centralized website tailored to both Net Impact’s emerging and current audiences. Brand new visitors can download resources, connect with local chapters, and quickly become new, free members of the community. Premium members can also sign up for "Issues in Depth" webinars featuring experts on everything from Corporate Social Responsibility to careers. All members are connected to a global community of 20,000+ people using their business smarts to change the world. All member data is collected in Salesforce so Net Impact staffers have an accurate picture of their constituents, chapters, funders and programs.
The database also needed to be customized around the complex business process of their annual conference. With varying levels of membership, discount codes, international attendees, multiple day attendance and more, our crack database team built a system that would allow for each individual requirement and seamlessly collect the mission-critical data for the Net Impact team.
Looking to align profit with social good and a sustainable planet? Become a member of Net Impact and also check out their annual conference this weekend in Portland, Oregon.]]>
"Being able to easily post and manage volunteer opportunities in both of Canada's official languages is a huge win."
- Elijah van der Glessen, David Suzuki Foundation
Highlight features in this version include:
For a complete list of what's new, please refer to the release notes.
The latest version is 1.54 and you can get it now on Appexchange.]]>
In the 1990s, as program director of a youth-oriented nonprofit, I often had this thought: if only we could find a better way to reach out to our alumni we could surely get a lot more done.
Alas, this was the 90s – we still did most of our work using paper (applications, direct mail, brochures, etc.), email for the masses was just picking up (AOL, Hotmail), and databases were primarily used for money stuff and not for managing the involvement of constituents. Social media consisted of chat rooms and bulletin boards that people were scared of. Sure—we knew our core group of volunteers, but to engage the hundreds of thousands of former participants and staff is not something we could have feasibly done on our budget.
But it would have been awesome if we could have. Alum still tell me, more than ten years later, that they wished someone would have followed up with them after this particular fundraising event, or that week at outdoor education, or this season of basketball. We had no central system for tracking engagement and it saddens me when I think back on all the folks who would have been even more engaged had an opportunity presented itself. And how much more we could have done.
DING DING DING! Hello Salesforce.com database! Hello Engagement Tracker and Engagement Pyramid! Surely this extreme uptick in cloud, web and social technology over the past few years can benefit the nonprofit sector, right? Right. Here at Groundwire our developers have been working with the Salesforce platform to create the Groundwire Engagement Platform -- technology for managing and tracking volunteers, events, fundraising, and participation so program staff can quickly and easily scale their number of engaged supporters and call on these supporters at the right time to support mission.
At the Salesforce annual conference last month, Salesforce.com Foundation VP of Technology and Innovation Steve Andersen led a session called Advocacy in the Cloud: Engaging People to Bring About Change. This session featured two nonprofits, The DC Project and Idaho Conservation League, who put engagement -- defined here as the process of building relationships with people and putting those relationships to work toward a shared vision -- at the center of their organization including investing in the technology to support it.
What they do:
The mission of The DC Project is to advance economic and environmental justice by creating clean energy careers for people who need them most. Engagement is at the heart of their program strategy.
Their engagement model:
The organizers found that while there were plenty of people interested in working a green job, the demand for the services was not there. So, they centered their engagement on creating the demand – specifically getting homeowners to invest $5,000 in energy-efficient home projects. Tactics to get people involved include knocking on the doors of homeowners, phone-banking, and follow-up events on home efficiency and weatherization.
If a homeowner decides to invest in energy efficiency projects, it’s a triple win: lower utility costs and a more efficient home for the homeowner, less carbon emissions for mother earth, and work for these newly-trained green jobsters.
And finally, one of the key elements to the DC project strategy is deep engagement with the homeowners from door bell through to home weatherization – with the idea that the homeowners will then become volunteers with the project and the community will become one of large-scale involvement and engagement in the project.
The technology they use:
When they first started, The DC project was using a number of technology platforms to manage their work. The result was data in silos that not everyone in the organization could access. So, they made the decision to use a centralized database, Salesforce, to hold all of the data important to their program. That meant getting everyone trained in Salesforce, and also customizing the database to work for their program areas.
The DC Project built very cool Phone Bank and Canvass applications in Salesforce to help them with their work. Click here and fast forward to 00:32:00 for a quick look at these tools that allow The DC Project to scale their effectiveness with their supporters by bringing important data back into Salesforce to leverage in future activities.
What they do:
ICL works to protect the air, water and wild places that Idahoans love. Since 1973 they have built a credible, professional voice for conservation in Idaho. Now, as their core membership ages, they are looking to engage a new generation of voices in their mission.
Their engagement model:
ICL developed an engagement pyramid that includes non-members (people who don’t give money). They used Salesforce to define what it means to be a “supporter” at a variety of levels in the organization. Go to 00:39:00 to watch Sara describe the different levels of engagement ICL supporters can be rated in Salesforce and how ICL staff use these levels to leverage their work for targeting campaigns, talking to donors, offering opportunities for increasing engagement and more. Having the campaign history is great, but having the algorithm that rolls it up to a number and then allows you to quickly run a report showing who in Twin Falls is “Level 4” or greater in one report is even better.
The technology they use:
They needed new tools to engage a younger audience. They made the switch from a membership-focused communications strategy to a “supporter at different levels” strategy. In 2009 they launched a new website, new Salesforce.com database, new email and social media tools, all with an engagement strategy behind it.
This is not your 1990s engagement. My old self is quite jealous.]]>
Groundwire was one of five recipients of the grant and in our case we plan to keep doing what we do, building innovative technology that helps nonprofits build relationships and change the world. We pack up all this innovative technology in a box we call the Engagement Platform and rather than write about it we'll let this short video tell you more.
We thank the Salesforce.com Foundation for their support and look forward to the work ahead.
FoodCorps in the New York Times
FoodCorps in USA Today
FoodCorps in Time Magazine]]>
Your event planner may balk at giving up her table captain spreadsheet and your volunteer coordinator may not want to mix his volunteers (kept in his Outlook contact list) in with your donors (usually because of mistaken ideas about asking volunteers to give donations. But that’s a different subject). Your major gifts officer may want to build a wall between his donors and the rest of the database.
Don’t let them do it.
It’s painful, but not as painful as explaining to Mrs. Major Donor Former Board Member why your major gifts officer called to update her on a campaign for which she was a key volunteer, or why she got three invitations to one event and two of them were addressed to her and one was addressed to her and that guy she divorced 18 months ago.
Cook Inletkeeper has been working hard to keep Cook Inlet safe and sustainable since 1995, and while we've known the Inletkeeper team for a long while, only recently have we had the opportunity to really dive in deep with them. But it was worth the wait. In the space of a few short months, we helped Cook Inletkeeper:
The net result: systems transformation. By helping Cook Inletkeeper think about its website, database, credit card processing and membership processes as connected elements in an integrated system, we were able to give them as set of powerful, flexible, fits-like-a-glove tools that meet all of their needs with headroom to grow.
Here's a quick screencast of Cook Inletkeeper's innovative "Weather and Tides" feature.