Measure twice, cut once. (I speak for myself, not my school)
Updated April 08, 2015

Measure twice, cut once. (I speak for myself, not my school)

Anonymous | TrustRadius Reviewer
Score 3 out of 10
Vetted Review
Verified User
Review Source

Software Version

7.93

Overall Satisfaction with The Raiser's Edge

We use a variety of Blackbaud products across the organization. Advancement is the primary user of Raiser's Edge, the Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) system, but we also use Education Edge (student information system) as well as the Blackbaud NetCommunity Portal. The applications are in separate databases but are integrated to the extent that the platform permits. We use these products to communicate with our constituents as well as to manage our relationships with them. Some data are used for internal reporting purposes and to feed other systems which provide features that Blackbaud products do not.
  • The answer to this question depends largely on what system(s) preceded Blackbaud in your organization. If you're coming from a home-grown spreadsheet or file-based database (MS Access, for example) system, then the features of RE (the volume of data available, the canned reports, and other basic features) will seem heaven-sent. But if you're a large organization, or one with an experienced staff, then the overall complexity and deficiencies of the Blackbaud suite quickly become apparent.
  • Something is better than nothing, so if your previous system was built by a staff member's brother-in-law who has since moved to Poughkeepsie, then RE is fantastic. As with all complex systems, a lot of the future success of the tool depends on implementation so the better the data going in, the better your use of the tool. Something is usually better than nothing and RE is something.
  • Blackbaud's Knowledgebase https://www.blackbaud.com/support/support.aspx has come a long way in the last few years. Their first level support is often lacking but second-level support is generally very good.
  • While it's a double-edged sword, RE is flexible... to a fault, but with power comes responsibly. If your organization has the discipline to use the tool consistently, it can be very powerful/
  • As Blackbaud (the organization, not the product) has grown, they've developed pockets in their corporate culture. Some pockets do quite well. Others, not so much. In particular, the design, development, and deployment of new features is often haphazard. For example, they announced what I felt was a major change in the implementation of the Forgotten Password feature. This announcement was buried in the middle of a PowerPoint presentation about the release. It was one bullet point but resulted in major rework of customer-facing documentation and communication on our part.
  • As the organization uses more of the Blackbaud suite of products, and as you use a greater percent of the feature set of any one product, more deficiencies become apparent. For example, the integration between Education Edge (EE) and Raiser's Edge (RE) is great and works. Except when it doesn't. And the research to discover that, for example, and address isn't the same in both systems, and the steps to correct, are cumbersome to say the least. Features that you would expect to be common to both applications (like the ability to paste a list of IDs in to a query window) are not the same in both applications (RE permits the paste, EE does not).
  • The major area for improvement, in the products and the organization, in my opinion is a need for a simpler, well-defined overall strategy. They've tried to be too many things to too many people and the result is an overall weaker product line. Several examples come to mind, including limited ability to select which fields are integrated between the two systems (it's "Addresses & Phone" period. All or none. But I have some phone fields that I need only in EE and not at all in RE, but there is no ability to select at this level of granularity). Another result of the complexity of the program is the "sometimes" responses we get from Support. I open a case describing a situation and the response is along the lines of "well, that happens sometimes." No further explanation, which leads me to believe that there is no real understanding.... they've gotten so complex they don't know what's going on. The most egregious result of this complexity is that data cannot be safely deleted from the database. In the BBNC product, for example, even if you follow all of the procedures to delete an email list you no longer need, sometimes it cannot be delete. What does the Knowledbase say? "In some cases, due to the reporting structure of Blackbaud NetCommunity, even after deleting associated messages a list can not be deleted. " Period. Paragraph. End of report. The most common response I get from Support, so common that it has become a running joke in my organization, amounts to "We understand what you're saying. You need to want something else."
  • We achieve our business objectives in spite of, not because of, Blackbaud. If we were to independently measure ROI on any aspect of the product line, between the cost (actual dollars spent to Blackbaud and indirect costs of the time it takes to deal with Blackbaud products and the Blackbaud organziation), I doubt any project would have a positive ROI. We write it off, mentally, as the cost of doing business (again, because the switching costs are still too high).
  • RE has the greatest potential for positive ROI if there are modest expectations and NO data integration with any other system (an other Blackbaud system or a third party). If it's a wholly stand-alone system you've got the best chance for success (but limited applicability in large organizations).
  • OrangeLeap,patron manager
I didn't select Blackbaud. I inherited Blackbaud. Given current experience, and given the chance, I'd probably opt for a "best of breed" approach rather than the purported "all in one" suite approach. With best of breed we'd need to build a middleware layer to integrate data between the systems, but given the haphazard nature of Blackbaud integration and the pain associated with the inevitable misses, it's a wash.
RE is best suited to small, simple organizations that have modest expectations of functionality, ideally coming from either no system, or a CRM that was cobbled together using spreadsheets and/or a simple database. If the ability to track gifts, and matching gift companies, and prepare mail-merge acknowledgement letters and simple reporting is all you need, RE will work well. If, on the other hand, you plan to integrate with other systems (even other Blackbaud systems), to use a high percentage of the offered feature sets, or do any customization of any sort (most common with BBNC), then you need to take a deep breath and make sure you really want to get in bed with Blackbaud. The ship has sailed in my organization and we're too deeply embedded to change (between inertia and switching costs, we're basically trapped).

Using The Raiser's Edge

2 - We have a dedicated IT staff of four of whom one works with RE in our Advancement Office pretty much full time and the other (me) about 10-25% depending on what else is going on in the school. For example, during admission season, I focus on the school but during auction time, I help out with RE.
As far as skills, if you advertise for people with two years of RE experience, you're likely to get a person with two years experience working with two screens in RE. It's a massive program. We use a large percentage of the feature set so we look for more general tech skills than RE specific skills figuring we can teach the RE stuff.

The dedicated person is pretty much of an RE specialist whereas I'm more of an IT generalist with experience with RE (and EE/BBNC/and other Blackbaud products). The dedicated person will run straight-forward and routine queries, reports, and exports in RE and will modify them as needed. For a wholly new data need she'll likely consult with me and we'll craft a query or a process to harvest the data from RE and manipulate it in MS Excel or MS Access. Of late, we're getting better at crafting SQL queries and pulling the data straight in to Excel directly from the Blackbaud database, so SQL skills would be helpful if you're looking to do that.
Switching costs (real dollars as well a internal change management costs) are too high to switch. We're stuck. And Blackbaud knows it. And treats us as though they know it.

The Raiser's Edge Implementation

The Raiser's Edge Support

Well intentioned but limited. Very responsive when errors in the knowledgbase (KB) are pointed out but, sadly, there are too many errors in the KB.
ProsCons
Kept well informed
Support cares about my success
Quick Initial Response
Slow Resolution
Poor followup
Problems left unsolved
Escalation required
Difficult to get immediate help
Need to explain problems multiple times
Yes - Not yet.
July 27, 2012. Greg Milton at Blackbaud. I opened a ticket with Blackbaud late on a Friday because we began receiving HUNDREDS of email bounce messages (Delivery Status Messages) from messages sent from our website database as far back as April of 2011. Greg worked expertly and efficiently to understand the issue, explain it to me, and assist me with communicating to our internal stakeholders. As I mentioned, this was late on a Friday and by Monday, July 30, 2012, there was a clear, concise, and well-written article in the Knowledgebase explaining the situation. All too often Blackbaud (and, in all fairness, other vendors) blame the customer and try to avoid responsibility. Greg didn't shy away from the fact that Blackbaud made an internal change on their Mail Transfer Agent which resulted in the onslaught of Delivery Status Messages.

Using The Raiser's Edge

For too many tasks, we get the work done using RE but despite RE, not because of RE. We do a lot of settling here (Well, I really wanted X but all I could get was Y so that will have to do)
ProsCons
None
Do not like to use
Unnecessarily complex
Difficult to use
Requires technical support
Not well integrated
Inconsistent
Slow to learn
Cumbersome
Lots to learn
  • The Enhanced Search feature, introduced in version 7.92, is well crafted and well done.
  • AddressAccelerator is an optional module which formats addresses when they are entered or changed and is very useful and well implemented.
  • Integration with NetCommunity, for processing sign-up requests and other transactions generally works well.
  • Virtually anything involving integration of data with another system (whether it's a Blackbaud system or a third-party system) is fraught with excitement and danger.
  • Canned reports are poorly documented and provided without "drill down" or support of the summary numbers. It's 12... that's all, just 12, with no "backup" or "drill down" to say how they got to the 12. Trust us... we're from Blackbaud and we're here to help. Suggested use of Crystal Reports is, in my opinion, just a cash cow for them to sell more training sessions; implementation of reporting using Crystal is cumbersome at best and trivial at worst.