Most of the hundreds of institutions we work with utilize one or two core systems to manage advancement operations and communications. Over the last couple of decades, vendors have built broad platforms that offer a “comprehensive suite of solutions.” They might be represented visually like this:
Traditional Fundraising Systems
It’s likely that you use the same system to send emails, create events, build online communities, track donor interactions, conduct prospect research, accept gifts, and complete core fundraising operations.
The Comprehensive Approach vs. the Integrated Approach
The tradeoff with the comprehensive approach is that you lose the ability to offer your coworkers and constituents access to best-in-class solutions.
For example, many of our customers have expressed a desire to use Eventbrite for event management. We think that makes a lot of sense. But because many legacy databases don’t have strong application programming interfaces (APIs), it’s a challenge to use a system like Eventbrite without significant manual work.
Similarly, many advancement professionals have shown interest in HubSpot‘s inbound marketing software to better understand how constituents are engaging with their content. Others have expressed an interest in replacing clunky donation forms with clean, streamlined PayPal giving forms. And some Blackbaud customers have specifically asked for the company to “make the e-mail editor more like MailChimp.”
But is that the right request to make? Should you really be asking for your vendors to replicate best-in-class services? There are over 100 employees at MailChimp who focus almost exclusively on building an intuitive, affordable category-leading email platform. How can your advancement vendor compete with that?
In the for-profit world, comprehensive CRM and ERP systems have been replaced by integrated, industry-leading point solutions. For example, it’s common for a business to use Salesforce as its CRM, MailChimp for email marketing, and Eventbrite for event management.
Why is the integrated approach so rare in the nonprofit world?
As more of you and your peers continue to “think outside your database,” we predict legacy systems will either take a more open approach in the future or lower-cost, higher quality solutions will slowly chip away at them. APIs are enabling companies like ours to integrate a variety of data sources.
There is no reason you shouldn’t be able to segment your audience and accept gifts, send emails, or create events through whichever platform you choose.
There is no reason that the integrated advancement office of the future can’t look something like the image below.
What do you think? Would you be interested in a suite of best-in-class platforms? Or am I underestimating the benefits of having a comprehensive system?