Monday, September 23, 2013

Why now may be the wrong time to be investing in Fundraising Software for larger charities

Always the wrong Time (reloaded)

These are interesting times for large charities and their fundraising database needs. They are being stretched like never before in terms of delivering technological support to the fundraising teams and they are being asked to do things they didn't have to consider a few years ago - and being expected to deliver it.

But if that means that they - you - are considering replacing your existing fundraising database right now, then I would encourage you to think twice just at this moment.

Why? Well because the suppliers to this market are all in somewhat a state of flux. Take the 'traditional fundraising database' suppliers: Blackbaud are still selling The Raiser's Edge 7, which, although still provides solid functionality, is showing its age, and Blackbaud know they need to release some sort of replacement - or replacements - whether that is called RE8 or something else. But that's unlikely to happen quickly. Yes there is also Blackbaud CRM but that is probably still just for the largest users and still to really make in-roads into the UK market.

And two of their main competitors, thankQ and what was IRIS, have both relatively recently been acquired by other companies: thankQ by the Access Group, and IRIS by Advanced Computer Software (ACS). I think, in the long run, both acquisitions should be good news for their clients and prospective clients, but we are still in the early days of both takeovers, and they are still finding their feet in terms of business approach and in terms of their own next generation of software.

Which surely then means that the new (generic) CRM solutions should be the right thing to consider? Well maybe, but maybe not. They too are going through a few changes. Yes, they are growing their customer base (not quickly for fundraising applications, but steadily), but they both have their own challenges in terms of applying their technology and platforms to fundraising needs, and there is also the question of knowing which reseller or partner one should use if one does want to buy one of these systems.

Because there are a lot CRM partners out there. You could go for one of the big consulting firms, many of which have an arm specialising in, say, Salesforce and who have huge development skills and CRM backgrounds, but what is their experience of fundraising and working with charities? So think instead of a smaller, specialist partner, who knows, say, Dynamics and who also (says they) know fundraising. Could be good if you choose the right company but there are so many around and even those with some sort of track record in the sector still have minimal experience of implementing these CRM systems compared to the likes of Blackbaud, thankQ and ACS.

And we are all still learning about the CRM systems' true capabilities as of today - and what developments in CRM systems really means for us tomorrow as a large charity in terms of commitment, resources and budget.

So what do you do if you are a large, or even mid-size charity and you do need to replace your fundraising database now? Well, if you genuinely have a burning platform then you of course need to get moving. Or if there are other, genuine risks to the continued use of your existing system or you can positively show that your fundraising income is being hurt by using your current system (and I mean really show that - not just maybe, sort of just think that because it, say, can't "do social media"), then yes, again, you should start planning.

But if not, if you just think you might need to be moving soon, or you've heard that someone else has replaced their database with X or Y, then I would caution you to consider. I think that in another 12 to18 months, some of the above questions will be ironing themselves out. Blackbaud should hopefully be able to publicly give some timescales for their next steps, we will know more about the acquisitions of thankQ and ACS, and Salesforce and Dynamics should have more live sites up and running and actually doing their fundraising on their platforms.

Of course, in 12 to 18 months time, some other great unknown will raise its head and I'll be saying wait until… Nah, surely not.


Paul Morriss said...

This is a good summary of the state of fundraising software. When I looked at Dynamics a while back I asked the salesman if it could do Gift Aid and he said they could do custom work to make it happen. However all charities need pretty much the same things for Gift Aid, so I don't want to pay for custom work. Do any of the CRM packages handle Gift Aid? Or Direct Debit imports from bank files?

Anonymous said...

We are finding many charities engaging with us for exactly the reasons here. Traditional Member management type systems are expensive and difficult to flex to an individuals needs and are increasingly not meeting the other needs that a CRM can deliver.

The Cloud-based CRM solution extends beyond CRM to support the aims and activities of NFPs and Charities like Coeliac UK and the CABA., a UK provider of cloud-based CRM and business applications, has announced the launch of its next-generation CRM and membership management solution; Workbooks Not-for-profit, as a result of the success of the Workbooks solution in the NFP and Charity sector.

Workbooks won CRM Product of the Year 2013 and is rated highly in the independent G2 Crowd website CRM comparison.

Ivan Wainewright said...

Hi Paul - For Salesforce, yes, there is Supporter360 (now on the appExchange) which has Gift Aid and regular giving functionality - and another app, Payonomy is an example of how you can process DDs through Salesforce. I think the apps are a good approach for something like DDs, so it can be integrated into vanilla versions as well as other apps.

Ciber UK have a Dynamics "template" which details what it can do, and which includes Gift Aid Management as a feature.

Donald Lobo said...

Hi! Paul and Ivan-

For CiviCRM yes :) Civi has been supporting giftaid for the past couple of year. Very recently the UK folks released v2.0 of the giftaid support. Check:

for more details. The Civi ecosystem in the UK is growing very nicely. We'll be having a CiviCon in London next week: Oct 3rd and 4th. Our website has more details (dont want to spam too many links here!)


Ivan Wainewright said...

Hi Donald, yes, good point, I should have mentioned Civi can certainly do Gift Aid - and it also has DD functionality too