A Raiser’s Edge migration guide for fundraisers

Profile picture for user Kirsten Kippen
By: Kirsten Kippen | 6.19.18

We are frequently asked for help migrating off of Blackbaud’s Raiser’s Edge on to Salesforce’s Nonprofit Success Pack (NPSP). Over the years we have learned a thing or two about a Raiser’s Edge migration, what causes nonprofits to consider this move, and how they can navigate it smoothly.

Here are tips we have gleaned to help with not only the technical migration but also to help YOU, the fundraiser who is actually tasked with raising money throughout this transition.


Common pain points with Raiser’s Edge

Let’s start with some of the pain points that cause fundraisers and nonprofits to consider a Raiser’s Edge migration. While it is a very well-known fundraising platform, there are several big issues we hear frequently:

  • It’s hard to access. For starters, before Raiser’s Edge NXT you could not access it on mobile or remote computers.
  • It’s challenging to configure. There are limitations to changes you can and cannot make within Raiser's Edge. It’s not a flexible system and there is an established, convoluted architecture. This means organizations cannot independently make changes the way they want to. You will have to bend your business process to align with the Raiser's Edge idea.
  • It’s complicated to pull reports and analytics. The Raiser's Edge reporting system is based on queries which require an administrator in order to fully leverage the functionality. There is a dedicated solution “Crystal Reports for Blackbaud” that users have to use if they want to get real, meaningful analytics from their data.
  • It’s closed off. Historically, there was no way to integrate with your other non-Blackbaud based solutions. This leaves you dependent on a limited toolset. Raiser’s Edge NXT does have open APIs to an extent, but this requires you to engage with a developer while using a more expensive solution.


As one of our consultants put it:

“Raiser’s Edge is a good fundraising platform. For non-fundraising purposes, Raiser’s Edge is never going to meet those needs or at best is a hack tool. Extra user licenses for lightweight non-fundraising users are too expensive and don't cost-effectively make sense to purchase, so the result is organizations simply building their program data management outside and disconnected from the donor and supporter data. Salesforce can do all of the program metrics and flexible other things that the whole organization needs.


The solution NPSP can bring

We are the first to acknowledge that Salesforce cannot be a silver bullet for every challenge your nonprofit faces. However, Salesforce’s Nonprofit Success Pack does knock it out of the park for most challenges.

As a fundraiser, one of your most important tools is relationships. The Relationships and Affiliations model with NPSP enables you to understand the multi-faceted way that a particular donor may be interacting with your organization, and discovering “who knows who”. It is a simple model that lets you see the employment history for a person, as well as the different overlapping relationships they may have with your other donors or members.

If you want the ability to see your organization’s operations from grant application to program management to reporting, NPSP is the way to go. It will take a careful understanding of your own organization’s processes, but you do have the ability to see how funding and metrics interact together.


What to expect with a Raiser’s Edge migration to NPSP

Change is hard and requires a champion to navigate, for starters. Whether this is you or another member of your organization, someone will need to champion the Raiser’s Edge migration and volley for support across the organization.

This will be not only a technology shift for your organization, but also a cultural shift, as you will have much more of an opportunity to get curious, advance your own career through transferable skills, and show off reports to your boss. No more excuses for technology getting in your way.


5 tips for moving from Raiser’s Edge to NPSP


1. Finesse your ROI argument, then finesse it some more

Chances are good that your organization used Raiser’s Edge primarily out of inertia - every Development Director before you had used it, no one really remembered why, but it was the devil you knew. You will likely have to fight serious institutional inertia in order to make a case for a Raiser’s Edge migration.

Be strong, and anchor your discussion in both facts (such as the Total Cost of Ownership for NPSP vs. Raiser’s Edge) and emotion (how much better your morale will be when you’re using a more flexible system).


2. Partner with a skilled consultant to help you with data migration

A Raiser’s Edge migration is a common but complex project. There are a number of challenges that they pose for data migration, but also for change-management and user adoption.

To prepare for the move from Raiser’s Edge to NPSP, here are the top roles you will want to fill by someone at your organization:

  • Someone who knows your data and knows what you really need and WHY, and has the authority to say goodbye to what doesn't matter
  • Someone who is capable of doing the work of normalizing data prior to handing off files so that they don't end up doing so much cleanup for them.


Beyond this, we strongly encourage you to partner with a Salesforce consultant to support a Raiser’s Edge migration to Salesforce. Yes, we are biased but data migration is hard and you will need help!

An experienced consultant can help you make sense of all this as well as help with the actual migration.

For more detail on all these points, our consultant Larry Bednar has put together a thorough resource on key data handling difficulties when migrating from Raiser’s Edge to Salesforce, which you can access here.

3. Find an early win

For the average fundraiser, it’s not the open source nature or brilliant data architecture that will make you fall in love with NPSP. It will be simply how it affects your actual day-to-day process of logging and following up with donations.

On an NPSP forum, NPSP expert Mary Pustejovsky offered this recommendation for what fundraisers are seeing the most immediate value from during demos of NPSP:

“I would say the biggest thing for a fundraiser is Task logging with notes and how EASY it is compared to (Raiser’s Edge). Show them a sample automated email they could get whenever a donation comes in over a certain amount. Show them the mobile App. Show them a dashboard and how to drill down from it to the details. And finally, show them a sample report and how they can quickly sort by any column. Those have been the biggest "aha" moments I've seen when a user switches from (Raiser’s Edge).”

And there are many early wins besides the ones above.

You could also consider the Salesforce feature called Chatter. For example, if your organization sends tons of emails about specific donations, Chatter could help you connect and sort these. Or a final example, reports. Reports and dashboards are your #1 way to make your Executive Director love Salesforce.


4. Prioritize training

Former Raiser’s Edge users often have a hard time wrapping their heads around accounts, contacts, and household accounts in NPSP. We suggest focusing on the account and learn what attributes interact with it— from opportunities to contacts.

Understanding how the objects interact will help you build highly flexible reports that will wow your Executive Director.

At a minimum, consider creating a translation guide using these NPSP terms and mapping to the Raiser’s Edge terms you’re used to. We recommend using this as a starting point to build a training plan that considers user adoption from multiple angles, over the first year of your implementation.


5. Use this as an opportunity to advance your career

In today’s job market with nearly 20% of companies using Salesforce, knowing Salesforce is an extremely useful skill to have on your resume. Learning Salesforce and NPSP is a skill you can use to advance your own career as a fundraiser.

Interested in getting more familiar with the Salesforce platform? Salesforce offers free training on their Trailhead site. Just like a hike, there are “trails” or paths you can take to learn about their platform. Check out this trail on Salesforce Basics for Nonprofits.


Ready to chat about what a Raiser’s Edge migration to NPSP could look like for your organization?


Let’s Talk



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