Raiser’s Edge vs. the Nonprofit Starter Pack: a nonprofit technology showdown

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By: Brent Shively | 6.9.16

If you’re a nonprofit that has a CRM, has looked into CRMs, or have just poked around in technology specifically created for nonprofits, chances are good that you’ve heard of Salesforce and Blackbaud. They’re the heavy-hitters in the nonprofit technology sector, but they’re quite different in their approaches. Today we’re going to look at two solutions offered by the major platforms; they’ve reached a point where they are tight competitors (and arguably, the leaders) in nonprofit technology. For the sake of simplicity, we’ll be looking at what these solutions offer out of the box.

Blackbaud’s product: Raiser’s Edge

Raiser’s Edge (RE) has been available since the mid 1980’s, and Blackbaud has made substantial changes throughout the product’s lifecycle in order to expand functionality. Most recently, that has been moving from servers or remote access to the cloud with Raiser’s Edge NXT. New components of functionality are offered as add-ons to the core Raiser’s Edge product.

Salesforce’s product: The Nonprofit Starter Pack

The Nonprofit Starter Pack (NPSP) launched in 2005 as the result of a community effort to create a free solution designed to accommodate a nonprofit’s core needs, powered by gifted licenses extended by Salesforce.org. From day one, NPSP has been driven by the Salesforce nonprofit community, and functionality expansions have resulted from listening and interacting with NPSP users.The community has grown substantially in the past decade, and NPSP has done so as well. Similar to RE, NPSP users have a huge assortment of apps to chose from for additional functionality.

NPSP Strengths

NPSP has grown in leaps and bounds, particularly with version 3, when the packages were consolidated to allow for updates to be seamlessly pushed without the need to engage with a consulting firm.

  • Relationships: At it’s core, a CRM needs to track both how you interact with your constituents and how your constituents may interact with one another. The affiliations object allows for you to see the web of connections one particular constituent may have with other donors, partners, employers, and funders that you’re tracking in your database. This functionality includes being able to cleanly track your constituents as a household and view their collective giving.
  • Flexibility: At Idealist Consulting, we often say that “there are 10 doors to the same room” with Salesforce, meaning there are a lot of ways to accomplish the same or similar things. Because NPSP doesn’t make too many decisions for you, you’re left with an enormous amount of flexibility to determine your setup, integration, and any code you might add to meet your organization’s requirements. Whether you need to be able to track unique program metrics or track how many hours a volunteer has provided, NPSP will be able to meet that need, one way or another. It’s up to you to determine how you want to accomplish it, but we would recommend working with a consultant or asking the Hub to ensure it follows best practices
  • Support: Because NPSP was developed and continues to be updated by a group of passionate individuals and organizations, there is a strong community available to support the functionality you may want or issues you run into. Specifically, the Power of Us Hub provides an active, considerate community that has fast response time and provides insightful suggestions for how to resolve the unique challenges nonprofits face. Additionally, the Salesforce back end provides access to an even broader range of support from blogs, vlogs, podcasts, applications, and consulting firms.


RE’s Strengths

There are a few areas where RE’s out of the box functionality extends beyond what the NPSP provides out the box.

  • Events: A common issue we see is navigating event management. Out of the box, Raiser’s Edge provides “Special Events” functionality allowing an organization to precisely track a number of actions related to their event (registrants, attendance, calendaring, etc). There is a large amount of specificity available out of the box for tracking events, which can be intimidating. It’s important to have a strong internal admin to be able to manage this effectively.
  • Batch Uploading: The native batch upload functionality within RE allows you to mass upload donations in batches, see which donations are allocated to which particular batch, and when that batch was uploaded. There is similar functionality within NPSP, but it doesn’t meet the level of granularity available in RE, particularly when it comes to validation / encouraging consistent data entry.
  • Moves Management and Prospecting: Being able to track how a donor progresses from one level of engagement to the next is an important aspect to understanding the level of attention you should have with that individual. Out of the box, RE has functionality that allows you to track those moves and report on how many donors are in a particular bucket.


Who Wins?

So who would win in a face off between NPSP and RE? Well, it’s the classic consulting answer: “It depends!” Ultimately, you need to consider your organization’s core system requirements and available budget. While both solutions come with a lot of functionality out of the box, NPSP alongside Salesforce does provide a strong community (through the Power of Us Hub), platform, and ecosystem with a broad range of solutions.

Interested in making the move from RE to NPSP? Chat with one of our SA’s to figure out how we can setup NPSP to match and exceed your RE functionality!


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