Overall Satisfaction with The Raisers Edge
At my current organization, we use The Raiser's Edge (and RE:NXT) in two departments, possibly adding a third within the year. Development uses it for fundraising and Marketing for sending out emails (via Online Express). I have also worked with RE in 3 previous positions at 2 other organizations. One a major arts & cultural institution (RE used for development, membership, and volunteer management) and the other an affiliate office of a social service organization where we operated with one overall RE database for all 16 affiliates.
- RE has built-in fields and tools for most everything you need, and then the capacity for additional modules or integrated products, extra fields (attributes), and custom processes and reports for anything you need that might be a little outside the norm. Exporting and Importing data is pretty straightforward once you've done it a few times. It is a very versatile product and can be set up in numerous ways to handle many different pieces of data.
- RE:NXT is the newest product...a cloud-based user interface to your database. It's still being developed, but to me, that's a great thing because we (the end-users) are able to have a lot of input over how that design and development happens. Blackbaud has been making an intentional push to actively solicit feedback from customers and to use that feedback to improve and further develop its products. It'll be a long wait, but well worth it. This UI is particularly user-friendly to the fundraiser and is accessible from any mobile device...while still maintaining the RE:7 "regular" interface where your database administrator and data entry staff will primarily work at this point.
- The Blackbaud Community, with a section for each product, is a great online resource! Post questions or dilemmas and get fast responses (usually within 3 hours) from other users and from BB staff who are also active in the space. The Community also connects you with resources like the idea banks, webinars and events, and trainings. Along with training, the recently revamped certification program enables organizations to hire staff who know not only the basics of the product but also enough to make the product flex to accommodate the specific needs of your organization. Or to offer professional development to current staff as they learn in preparation for taking the exams.
- The focus, understandably, is on the development of NXT, as the next big move for the product. But that means that while RE:7 features might see tweaks and improvements, it is less likely that we will see brand new features.
- There are some things that RE just can't/won't do, and that can be frustrating. A former supervisor used to lament that canned reports will "do everything you want until the very last thing" and I often must agree. There are always workarounds, but they aren't always efficient or feasible.
- Training subscriptions are offered only at the organization level. So if you want training and professional development as an individual (because your organization doesn't have the resources to purchase a training package), there isn't an option for you. I have talked with BB about this, so hopefully it will be an available option in the future, but for now, it's a definite place for improvement.
- RE allows us to accurately track a wealth of information about our fundraising efforts and our connection with our donors and supporters. In a mostly seamless experience with a significant amount of flexibility to make the system work for us.
- Even in a small shop, I think the ROI is there. To me, a big organization with a large number of constituent records and a decent-sized development staff is equivalent to a small organization with far fewer constituent records and a staff of just a few people... You still need a system that will help you track your proposals, appeals, and actions, because in either case, you need that information to be recorded somewhere other than in someone's head.
Blackbaud is a well-known and respected company, and The Raiser's Edge is widely used across a variety of organizations (big and small, local and national/global, etc.). It's a versatile product, and with the help of users in the community, Blackbaud staff, and independent consultants or a smart hire of a great database administrator, it can really help any nonprofit get the fundraising done and turn more focus to mission. It is an expense, but working with the right account manager and getting the right set of products plus the right staff (and training/knowledge/experience) to use them, the return on investment is probably there. Most issues I've encountered are caused by data integrity and consistency rather than the product itself...and that again comes back to staff training, knowledge, and experience.