Blackbaud Raiser’s Edge: 5 Crucial Questions (and Answers!)

Blackbaud Raiser’s Edge: 5 Crucial Questions (and Answers!)




November 6, 2017

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If your school is out for fundraising or donor management software, you’ve undoubtedly considered what Raiser’s Edge could do for your organization.

One of the most popular products in the Blackbaud family, Raiser’s Edge is an all-in-one CRM (constituent relationship management) and fundraising software solution.

As one of the most powerful and flexible technologies on the market, Blackbaud Raiser’s Edge can definitely help schools get to the next level in terms of fundraising, engagement and efficiency but that doesn’t mean it’s the right choice for every organization!

In this post, we’ll break down 5 vital questions to help you understand what Raiser’s Edge is, what it can do and when you should consider investing in it yourself.

Here are the questions we’ll answer :

1. What features does Raiser’s Edge include?

2. What kind of schools use Raiser’s Edge?

3. How does Raiser’s Edge differ from other Blackbaud software?

4. Can you customize Raiser’s Edge?

5. Does Raiser’s Edge require training?

Let’s find out if Raiser’s Edge can be the missing link your school has been looking for!

What features does Raiser’s Edge include?

Raiser’s Edge seeks to supercharge your school’s fundraising and stewardship efforts by streamlining your operations in one central software solution.

With Raiser’s Edge, you’ll have access to a wide variety of important school tools in one place, leading to greater efficiency across your entire organization.

Some of those must-have features? Let’s look at just a handful:

1. Donor relationship management : Use pre-set data fields to store the most important information about your supporters. Then expand your knowledge by adding custom fields to your donor profiles.

2. Constituent lists: Filter your constituency based on shared characteristics to manage supporters in an intuitive and useful way. With Raiser’s Edge, segmentation is as easy as a few simple clicks.

3. Online giving tools: Build an unlimited number of online donation forms that perfectly match your school’s brand. Plus, you’ll have the reliability of Blackbaud Merchant Services on your side to manage all payment processing needs.

4. Work centers: A center of operations for each member of your team, role-based work centers can provide your staff with a way to view their responsibilities, goals and performance with a purpose. Say goodbye to clutter and hello to built-in organization!

5. Multi-channel marketing tools: From email to direct mail, Raiser’s Edge can help you stay on top of your donor communications and marketing initiatives. Engaging with constituents has never been more seamless.

While the features we’ve mentioned are by no means exhaustive, they should give you a picture of how comprehensive Raiser’s Edge is.

With that in mind, it’s important for your school to discern whether or not you have a need for so many features in your fundraising and CRM software.

Before you decide it’s the right technology for you, make sure its powerful features align with your goals to ensure a wise software investment.Not ready for Raiser’s Edge? Find a cost-effective alternative that can still meet your growing school’s needs by checking out Almabase - Crowd Funding Platform build specially for schools and colleges.

What kind of schools use Raiser’s Edge?

Schools of all shapes and sizes can use Raiser’s Edge, but its functionality is more well-suited to organizations with certain types of needs and goals.

Let’s break down a few examples of schools who might be a perfect fit for Blackbaud Raiser’s Edge:

1. Schools who have outgrown their small-scale donor management software are good candidates for Raiser’s Edge, since it provides next-level tools while remaining user-friendly enough to fit all skill and experience levels.

2. Midsize-to-large organizations who aren’t ready for an enterprise solution (such as Blackbaud CRM or Sales-force) can benefit from the functionality of Raiser’s Edge, which provides a nice balance of usability and expandability.

3. Schools who don’t want an extensive implementation process will appreciate that while Raiser’s Edge can be customized (as we’ll discuss in Section 4!) it also comes equipped with all the most vital features out-of-the-box.

4. Growing schools who need a scalable solution can rest easy knowing that Raiser’s Edge can stay their software of choice for many years and be customized or expanded at any time as their needs evolve.

Ultimately any school can take advantage of Raiser’s Edge as long as they understand exactly where this platform can fit into their budget, fundraising strategy and day-to-day operations.

That being the case, before moving into the buying process, take some time to assess the state of your current software and determine what your short- and long-term goals are. We assure you you’ll come out on the other side of the brainstorming session with a clear picture of what Raiser’s Edge can (and can’t) do for your team.

How does Raiser’s Edge differ from other Blackbaud software?

During your search for software, you’ve inevitably found yourself poring over pages upon pages of available Blackbaud products. Believe us, we know their wide range of software choices can be overwhelming at first glance!

Before committing to Raiser’s Edge, it’s important that you understand how this product fits in with the variety of other online fundraising and constituent relationship management solutions available.

We won’t be able to walk through every single option, but we can show you how Raiser’s Edge compares with the other major players in the Blackbaud CRM product family:

1. eTapestry was designed for smaller organizations who aren’t quite ready for Raiser’s Edge. With manageable pricing plans and simple, user-friendly tools, eTapestry is a good starter CRM for organizations who need to size up from basic spreadsheets.

2. Luminate CRM, unlike Raiser’s Edge was built for Salesforce. If your organization is already utilizing Salesforce CRM (and wants to stick with it), you can still access the Blackbaud functionality you need by implementing Luminate CRM.

3. Blackbaud CRM is a highly customization donor management software choice that’s perfect for enterprise-level organizations. If you have truly complex needs that aren’t met by most donor databases, this powerhouse platform can be your ultimate ally.

Keep in mind that this is just a sample of Blackbaud’s offerings and you may also need to look outside the scope of this provider to find solutions that completely cover your needs.

Sometimes, all-in-one constituent relationship and fundraising management software is all you need; other times, you might need to integrate multiple solutions to build out a system that’s all your own. It’s up to your team—with the help of an experienced school technology consultant—to determine what’s best for you.

Can you customize Raiser’s Edge?

We know some of our answers thus far have been complicated, so let’s take a break and discuss one fact that couldn’t be clearer : yes, Raiser’s Edge can (and should) be customized!

We’ll examine two distinct ways you can build out your Raiser’s Edge software to serve your goals in a unique way :

1. Configurations, which refer to the backend settings that affect how your staff uses Raiser’s Edge.

2. Integrations, which refer to the additional software you can sync up with your Raiser’s Edge system.

Let’s walk through some examples of each.

Raiser’s Edge Configurations

You can customize your Raiser’s Edge platform by adjusting your configuration settings directly within the software.

While we won’t go into the nitty-gritty tech details (we’ll leave that up to Blackbaud and your technology consultant!) suffice it to say that most aspects of your platform can be configured to some extent.

By taking advantage of many different configuration options, your school can tailor your software to fit your specific needs, goals and operations, thus maximizing your use of Raiser’s Edge!

Some examples of configuration options include :

1. Adding custom fields

2. Building Tables

3. Defining attributes

4. Formatting an addressee or salutation

5. Managing businesses rules              

While Blackbaud does provide do-it-yourself resources and guides for configuring Raiser’s Edge, keep in mind that extensive customization can be complicated. For best results, partner with a technology consulting firm with in-depth Blackbaud experience.

Raiser’s Edge Integrations

This software can do a lot, but that doesn’t mean it will adequately account for every aspect of your donor engagement or fundraising strategies.

If that’s the case, your school may need to look to outside software that can be integrated with your Raiser’s Edge platform.

Depending on your organization’s goals, you might consider integrating tools to manage :

1. Alumni relations

2. Mobile giving

3. Matching gifts

4. Fundraising events

5. Peer-to-peer fundraising

The benefit of integrations is that (when done correctly) they can centralize all of your various software platforms. That way, you’ll have access to all of the tools you need in one place.

Your donor management and fundraising software should bend to meet your needs, not the other way around. With that in mind, take advantage of integrations to expand your software system so you can stay on top of all of your efforts.

Does Raiser’s Edge require training?

Though more user-friendly than some complicated Blackbaud products, Raiser’s Edge, like most software, comes with a learning curve.

There’s no point in using high-powered software if your staff doesn’t know how to tap into that potential. For that reason, training should be at the top of your list when considering the Raiser’s Edge implementation process.

There is no shortage of Blackbaud training resources available, including classes, videos and how-to articles that were created specifically for the latest version of Raiser’s Edge. (To see all of them, you can check out Almabase + Raiser's Edge,  DNL OmniMedia’s thorough guide to Raiser’s Edge training.)

But before you can dive into the training itself, make sure your school has determined the answers to these all-important questions :

1. Will you seek out Blackbaud or third-party training?

Blackbaud provides some basic training as part of most software packages, or you can upgrade to a more inclusive training plan. Alternatively, you can work with an experienced Blackbaud partner who can guide you through a personalized training path that’s based on your specific needs.

2. Who needs to be trained?

Anyone using Raiser’s Edge should be part of your training plan. That might mean as few as one or two administrators or, more likely, your entire staff. Make sure to find training that’s tailored to each role on your team.

3. Do you want an instructor?

Blackbaud offers on-demand videos online as part of their most basic training level. While that may be sufficient for some organizations, most schools are more likely to benefit from instructor-led courses online or in-person

4. Where will you be trained? Will you travel to regional group classes?

Train in-office over the span of a few days or weeks? Or perhaps you’ll take virtual classes that can be completed anywhere, anytime.

5. Does training fit into your team’s schedule?

Implementation can take a long time, so you’ll need to make room in your schedule. Consider how training your staff will fit into your annual fundraising strategy; you don’t want to end up with too much downtime that can affect your operations!

No matter how you go about training, make sure that by the end of the implementation process, your entire school team feels confident making the most of your new software. After all, what use is software that you can’t take full advantage of?

There’s a reason Raiser’s Edge has remained a fundraising staple for so long. With the right know-how and a little strategy, this software has the potential to strongly impact your fundraising potential.

As you move forward in the buying process, keep these questions in mind. Once you find your perfect software fit, you’ll be one step closer to achieving (and surpassing!) your goals.

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