Perhaps it would help to put these questions in context; how would you defend the expense of purchasing, maintaining and managing your fundraising software to your Board?
Consider the typical organization that decides to buy The Raiser’s Edge from Blackbaud. The investment can be significant. The organization needs to purchase software licenses for all of its users (usually paid up-front) and face recurring annual fees of roughly 22.5% for technical support and software updates. However, before using the software they must incur the expense and disruption to their business of converting data, documenting policies, training users and re-writing reports. And let’s not forget that The Raiser’s Edge is a sophisticated product, requiring many organizations to hire dedicated staff to manage the system.
So where is the ROI?
The answer is that far too many organizations fail to capitalize on this substantial investment because of the way they answer a fundamental philosophical question:
What is the role of The Raiser’s Edge and who owns the system?
Used properly, The Raiser’s Edge is much more than a check ledger and Rolodex. While it performs these functions very well, non-profits do themselves a disservice relegating ownership of the system to IT or Advancement Services. The ROI for The Raiser’s Edge, like any fundraising system, stems from the culture of accountability and transparency that it makes possible. The Raiser’s Edge has sophisticated functionality to manage virtually every facet of the most complex fundraising program, but it can only help raise money when senior leadership mandates that all staff use the system. In addition to this mandate, the organization must commit to a support structure that empowers staff to use the system in order to help the organization achieve its goals.
You know you are headed in the right direction when senior leadership, and ultimately the Board, can answer any of these questions on a moment’s notice:
- How is fundraising performing against goal?
- Which board members are actively raising money?
- What is in the pipeline and what is the likelihood that the ask will close?
- How many calls did gift officers make this month? What were the results?
- Is this year’s Annual Fund performing as well as last year’s? How about as compared to this quarter last year? This month? This day?
So how does a CEO or board member get immediate answers to these questions? For practical purposes, this can only happen when leadership mandates that everyone, at every level of the fundraising organization, tracks behavior and outcomes in a way that maps directly to Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Once this philosophical shift occurs, it is relatively easy to build the technical framework to automatically disseminate this information throughout every level of the organization and the Board.
Transforming an organization’s culture to embrace accountability is what we do here at JCA. Be sure to stay tuned to the JCA blogs for more detailed case studies of how we make this happen. And of course, if you just can’t wait, give us a call now to find out more.
JCA provides strategic consulting to the world’s leading nonprofits.