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Blackbaud CRM: 5 Essentials to Know Before Implementation

Chances are, your organization is at least familiar with the wealth of software products available from Blackbaud, a long-time leader in nonprofit technology. 

If you're searching for a new Blackbaud solution to complete your fundraising and donor management strategy, Blackbaud CRM might be at the top of your list. But before you decide that this software is the right one for your nonprofit, it's vital that you understand all this product can do, and what you'll need to implement it most effectively. 

To help you navigate the consideration, purchasing, and implementation process, we've broken down the answers to 5 questions you'll be asking about Blackbaud CRM:

  1. What is Blackbaud CRM?
  2. What kinds of nonprofits use Blackbaud CRM?
  3. How does Blackbaud CRM compare to other Blackbaud products?
  4. Can you customize Blackbaud CRM?
  5. Will your nonprofit need to be trained to use Blackbaud CRM?

With so many amazing nonprofit software options on the market, your organization should know exactly what you're getting into before deciding on your Blackbaud CRM purchase. With that goal in mind, let's answer some questions! 

Blackbaud CRM is an expansive constituent relationship management solution designed for enterprise-level nonprofits with complex goals and needs.

1. What is Blackbaud CRM?

Expansive, multifaceted constituent relationship management (CRM) software designed for nonprofits, Blackbaud CRM is a highly inclusive constituent database with a variety of features to boost your fundraising and donor stewardship efforts long-term.

But you're probably wondering—what does that actually mean for my nonprofit?

Blackbaud CRM is intended to be a completely end-to-end constituent relationship management platform that can be scaled to meet the needs of even the most complex nonprofit. That means that whatever you need your Blackbaud CRM system to do, there's almost definitely a feature, integration, or customization that can do it. 

To help you understand the scope of this product, let's break down the most important aspects of Blackbaud CRM.

Blackbaud CRM centralizes all constituent data. 

To efficiently run your organization, your various teams and departments need access to a lot of information at any given time. Blackbaud CRM can take disparate pieces of data and centralize it for easy access and management. That way, you won't have to bounce back and forth between multiple platforms losing time and, potentially, data in the process. 

Blackbaud CRM can help you build more meaningful constituent relationships. 

Your organization can use your CRM to build robust constituent profiles that serve as a full portrait of your supporters. When you have complete data sets and relevant actions, notes, and attachments at your fingertips, you'll be more prepared to use that data to interact with supporters in a meaningful way. 

Blackbaud CRM can strengthen your communication strategies. 

Blackbaud CRM can show you the data you need and provide you with the tools to use it in real-time! Manage communication preferences and control all of your multichannel marketing efforts in one system by leveraging Blackbaud CRM's social media, web design, direct mail, and email tools.

Blackbaud CRM can empower long-term progress through dynamic reports. 

The only way your organization will grow is through continual analysis of your fundraising and donor engagement efforts. Blackbaud CRM makes that growth a little bit easier by providing your nonprofit with completely customizable reports that allow you to gain insight into your success across a variety of campaigns. 

Blackbaud CRM centralizes constituent data.
The Short Answer to This Blackbaud CRM Question

Blackbaud CRM is a multifaceted tool, with nonprofit-specific features to help you manage almost every aspect of your fundraising, donor engagement, and overall operational strategy. 

Blackbaud CRM is intended for larger, established organizations who need a highly customized view of their constituents.

2. What kinds of nonprofits use Blackbaud CRM?

Because Blackbaud CRM is so multi-functional (and, as we'll discuss later, customizable), it's not a one-size-fits-all solution that any and all organizations can use. 

Blackbaud CRM is intended for large to enterprise-level organizations with complex needs and unique fundraising strategies. 

For example, if your nonprofit is comprised of multiple local chapters or field offices, you'll need a system that can help them operate independently and connect them to your greater organization as a whole. Similarly, you'll need to manage each chapter's constituents and fundraising campaigns both individually and holistically. Blackbaud CRM can support those efforts!

Of course, we understand that "large nonprofit with complex needs" isn't exactly the most specific descriptor. To determine if Blackbaud CRM can fit your organization, keep these considerations in mind: 

Does Blackbaud CRM fit in your nonprofit's budget?

Blackbaud CRM is not the right solution for your nonprofit if you simply can't afford it! Blackbaud CRM is a costly platform on its own, but you'll also need to consider the costs of integrations, training, upgrades or expansions, and consulting, among other various expenses you might incur throughout implementation.

How many constituent profiles do you need to store?

As you're researching which nonprofit CRM is right for you, you'll find that most software is priced by how many constituents it can store. Similarly, some software also restricts the number of users who can access the platform. Rest assured that Blackbaud CRM is able to accommodate even the largest organization's needs in both regards.

What are your fundraising goals while using Blackbaud CRM?

The scale and complexity of your fundraising efforts should also inform the product you select. If your organization relies on straightforward fundraising methods, you might just as easily meet your goals through dedicated fundraising software paired with a simple CRM solution.

How is your nonprofit staff currently operating?

Of course, before you decide to implement new nonprofit software, you should assess how your current strategy holds up. Determine which areas of your fundraising or donor engagement plans are already successful and which are holding you back; then, see how Blackbaud CRM's feature set can enhance your tactics for better results.

Blackbaud CRM is designed to meet the needs of large organizations.
The Short Answer to This Blackbaud CRM Question

Blackbaud CRM is intended for larger organizations with needs that fall outside the scope of small-scale CRM functionality. 

Blackbaud CRM is much more robust than other Blackbaud products.

3. How does Blackbaud CRM compare to other Blackbaud products?

As you may already be aware, Blackbaud offers a number of constituent management solutions, including Blackbaud CRM. 

Since we've already established what this particular CRM product can do and for whom it's intended, let's clarify any residual confusion by explaining some key differences between Blackbaud CRM and a few other popular Blackbaud constituent management relationship products. 

Here's how Blackbaud CRM stacks up against other Blackbaud donor management platforms.

Blackbaud CRM vs. Raiser's Edge

While Blackbaud CRM is intended for the largest nonprofits, Raiser's Edge can be used by smaller or midsized organizations. Additionally, while Raiser's Edge does provide donor management tools, it has greater built-in fundraising functionality rather than primarily serving as a CRM solution.

Learn more about implementing Raiser's Edge by reading this how-to post!

Blackbaud CRM vs. Luminate CRM 

The key difference between Blackbaud CRM and Luminate CRM is that while Blackbaud CRM is a standalone solution, Luminate CRM works as a part of the Salesforce ecosystem. If your organization already uses Salesforce as your primary CRM, Luminate can provide the Blackbaud insight and dedicated nonprofit functionality you need to extend your Salesforce database.

Read more about Luminate Online and Luminate CRM here!

Blackbaud CRM vs. eTapestry

If your organization is just starting out with online fundraising or constituent management, you won't be ready for the full range of Blackbaud CRM features. eTapestry provides a lightweight donor management and fundraising alternative for developing nonprofits with limited CRM needs.

Or, your organization can check out low-cost CRM software from other vendors! 

Remember: the more extensive your fundraising software, the more likely you are to need help with elements such as implementation, customization, and integrations.

If you do opt to implement Blackbaud CRM (Blackbaud's most comprehensive offering), you should plan to devote significant time and resources to getting started with your new platform. Moreover, you'll probably need the help of a nonprofit consultant to manage the process.

If your nonprofit doesn't have the time to work with your vendor or a nonprofit consultant to install the software, map out a strategy for using it, customize it, and train your team on it, you're probably better off choosing a more lightweight software. 

Blackbaud CRM is more expensive but much more robust than similar Blackbaud solutions.
The Short Answer to This Blackbaud CRM Question

Simply put, Blackbaud CRM is the most comprehensive CRM software in the Blackbaud product family. If your team isn't ready for such a powerful tool (or doesn't have the time or budget to implement it effectively), Blackbaud offers other lightweight options that are easier to get started with.

To get the most from Blackbaud CRM, nonprofits will need to build out and customize their platform.

4. Can you customize Blackbaud CRM?

Since Blackbaud CRM was designed for large-scale organizations with highly varied needs, it only makes sense that the platform would be configurable and expandable to meet a diverse array of nonprofit needs.

As is the case with many Blackbaud products, customizations can take your software from moderately effective to game-changing. Without taking the time to configure your platform in a unique way, your organization won't reap the full benefits of this expansive product and you may be left with missed opportunities and lost fundraising potential. 

The best way to ensure you're making the most of Blackbaud CRM? Team up with a Blackbaud partner who can help you outline your Blackbaud CRM strategy, design configurations that can enhance your plans, and then work with you throughout implementation to make sure your staff is well-equipped to get the most from this powerful platform. 

While Blackbaud CRM can (and should!) be built out to conform to your organization's specific needs, it's important to keep a few things in mind before you start planning out your customization strategy:

Blackbaud CRM doesn't have an open API. 

In order to perform custom API integrations, you'll need to work with Blackbaud or a third-party Blackbaud partner who can work with the Blackbaud API and develop the customizations you need. 

You'll need a developer to integrate multiple platforms. 

If you want to sync up Blackbaud CRM and other Blackbaud or third-party software, you'll need to work with a web developer (or a nonprofit technology consultant) who can manage the integration and ensure the two platforms connect seamlessly. 

A consultant can build unique solutions for you. 

Blackbaud has developed configurations to make the customization process easier, but for truly custom solutions, you may consider seeking out a nonprofit technology consultant who can work with you to develop solutions that match up with your fundraising strategy in a totally personalized way.

Customizing Blackbaud CRM is the best way to maximize the return on your investment.
The Short Answer to This Blackbaud CRM Question

When it comes to customization and user experience, Blackbaud CRM and other products in the suite, like their prospect research tools, definitely have some drawbacks.

Blackbaud CRM can be customized to meet a vast assortment of fundraising and donor engagement strategies; to do so, you'll need to partner with a nonprofit technology consultant who understands how to build out your Blackbaud CRM system in the most effective ways.

Nonprofits will need to work with Blackbaud or a specialized nonprofit consultant to become trained on Blackbaud CRM.

5. Will your nonprofit need to be trained to use Blackbaud CRM?

As we've already explained, Blackbaud CRM isn't a get-up-and-go kind of software. Understanding the nuances of this platform takes time and effort, and more than likely, some guidance from Blackbaud experts.

To get your staff up and running on Blackbaud CRM in as little time as possible, you should plan to participate in some form of software training. 

There are a number of routes your team can take to learn the ins and outs of Blackbaud CRM. To find the best option for you, keep these strategies in mind:

Know your Blackbaud training resources. 

Your team can choose to partake in any (or all) of Blackbaud's dedicated Blackbaud CRM training courses, read online manuals or the Blackbaud forums, or work with a nonprofit consultant to develop a custom training plan. Just make sure you're aware of all of the resources available to you so that you can make the most informed decision about what's best for your staff.

Understand the level of training you'll require. 

More than likely, your team will want as much training as possible to ensure full confidence in using Blackbaud CRM. However, there are multiple levels of training available, from one-off online videos to comprehensive in-person training from a consultant. Be sure that you have room in your team's schedules and your nonprofit's budget to account for all of the training you need.

Develop a training timeline. 

Training takes time, so implement a timeline with measurable goals along the way. That way, you'll mitigate the risk of falling behind on necessary daily operations as your staff undergoes training.

Training will be essential as you begin working with Blackbaud CRM.
The Short Answer to This Blackbaud CRM Question

Whether you opt to utilize Blackbaud's training courses or work with a nonprofit consultant from start to finish, it's important that every member of your staff who'll be using Blackbaud CRM feels confident with the platform. If your team isn't completely adept in the software, you're more likely to run into user errors that could damage your data and leave you with greater problems later on. 

Not familiar with all of the training options out there? Check out our compilation of the top Blackbaud training resources to get started!

Now that you know the basics of getting started with Blackbaud CRM, it's time to make your purchase and find the right nonprofit consultant to help you along the way.

Check out these additional Blackbaud software resources for even more insight into implementing Blackbaud fundraising solutions at your organization:

  • Blackbaud CRM Software: The Buyer's Guide. Now that you know everything you need to know about Blackbaud CRM, see the other constituent relationship management options in Blackbaud's extensive catalog. This guide will show you an in-depth comparison of all Blackbaud donor management options so you can pick the best for your nonprofit.
  • The Nonprofit's Guide to Luminate Online. Read up on Luminate Online Marketing to find out why so many nonprofits have made it their one-stop-shop for all of their online fundraising and marketing needs. Our guide to Luminate will teach you everything you need to know about this rockstar software.
  • TeamRaiser: 5 Tips for Successful Configuration. If your organization is using Blackbaud's peer-to-peer fundraising platform, TeamRaiser, to supercharge your fundraising power, you'll need to implement custom configurations for maximum success. Learn how to customize your platform with these top strategies!

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