Total Lockdown or Complete Chaos? There is a Middle Ground!

Getting data out of any fundraising CRM system in various forms (reports, queries, mailing lists, exports, dashboards, etc.) is a universal challenge in the nonprofit sector, regardless of the CRM system used. Pulling data accurately requires deep and specialized knowledge of the tools, data, database structure, institutional business rules, and conventions of fundraising (particularly when dealing with giving data).

The common objection to enabling self-service ad-hoc reporting is that end users can’t be trusted to do it correctly – they don’t understand the business rules, they don’t have the time and patience to learn to use self-service tools correctly, etc. And there are potential negative business consequences  – mailings sent to the wrong people, misreported revenue numbers, user frustration, and, ultimately, loss of confidence in the data itself (often unfounded – usually it is the outputs, not the data, that are inaccurate).

But very few nonprofit organizations have the financial resources necessary to employ enough full-time data analysts/business intelligence specialists to meet the reporting and data output needs of their user populations. Usually it’s not even close. As a result, nonprofits have to have something of a self service-oriented model for getting data out of their systems. Either that or force users to endure long wait times for every mailing list and query they need to do their jobs. The latter option  – locking down access to ad-hoc reporting tools – is fairly common, especially in the early period after going live with a new fundraising CRM system.

Even in larger, more robust nonprofit business intelligence environments, some end user data output needs cannot be anticipated in advance – that is to say, there will always be a significant number of ad-hoc (or semi-ad-hoc) data requests that can’t be fulfilled with the simple push of a button. A certain amount of end-user input – that is, self-service –  will always be necessary. The challenge, then, becomes how to enable end users to get the information they need in a timely manner, using a combination of:

  1. Fully pre-built options.
  2. Formal requests to be fulfilled by specialists (a topic which deserves its own discussion), and,
  3. Carefully designed self-service options that allow end users – who are not data experts and who have things other than pulling data to think about – to pull and output data quickly, easily, and with confidence, along with the training necessary for them to pull data confidently and correctly.

The BBCRM Data Output Options paper focuses on #3 – in particular, how to take advantage of the considerable range of output options offered by Blackbaud CRM (BBCRM hereafter) to meet the information output needs of end users without requiring them to become BI specialists. BBCRM offers a robust toolset, and when applied strategically, these tools can help users get the information they need with more confidence and less frustration.

Zuri Group can help. Contact us for more information.

Brandon Ferris, Senior Director



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