Setting up for Success: Integration, Staff Buy-in, Training.
Once you’ve done a review and determined the system that is best for you, take some time and plan your transition. Have you ever heard of a renovation job running on time and on budget? Well, it could be said that database transitions (or renovations) are similar. They take longer, and could cost more (depending on your needs) then you had anticipated.
The Bruce Trail Conservancy recently planned a major transition to better align their member, donor and engagement activities. In particular, they were in need of a system that could handle sophisticated donor relations but wanted also to sync this system with leading edge digital engagement tools. They had organizational capacity to commit to overseeing the transition. When they decided to transition to Raiser’s Edge they embarked on a year-long journey to organize, migrate, test and integrate their data.
Their transition started in 2014/15 when a subgroup of staff compared three systems - Salesforce, Raiser’s Edge and Donor Perfect. After testing and reviewing their shortlist, they opted for Raiser’s Edge, compelled by its status as an industry leader in donor relations. Further, the system’s new partnership with Luminate Online offered the combined ‘all-in-one-box’ solution they were seeking.
Raiser’s Edge has long been a favored system in the development and fundraising world. Though recently has fallen behind on offering tools for digital engagement many organizations were starting to seek. To fill this gap, Blackbaud is combining two systems that, in theory, work seamlessly together: Raiser’s Edge filling the donor, member needs; and Luminate Online offering the engagement solutions with mass mailing, online forms etc with seamless interaction with their contacts management tool.
Over a year after making the decision to transition, the Bruce Trail Conservancy is now live with Raiser’s Edge. This means that all supporter lists are now live. However, their hopes that the database could provide an ‘all-in-one-box’ solution were, unfortunately, not fully met with the new system. The Conservancy has specific and sophisticated needs for their list segmentation, and some of the functionality they were hoping for (with respect to memberships and product sales) proved too complicated for Raiser’s Edge. In the end, they customized a back-end solution to deliver the information they needed, and synced their database using an online tool “ImportOmatic.”
Their suite of solutions now looks something like the following: Raiser’s Edge is their central database containing all records for contacts. An online back-end solution exists on brucetrail.org for membership purchases, member logins, and e-commerce sales of Bruce Trail gear and products, synced to Raiser’s Edge via ImportOmatic. Luminate Online will be used for online donation forms and digital communication tools (such as mass email tools). Synching of Luminate Online and Raiser’s Edge also required a third party Omatic solution since the built-in Luminate Online / Raiser’s Edge Integration tool was not robust enough
The transition to a new system, for the Bruce Trail Conservancy, was not without its challenges. Migrating and converting data from their old system into Raiser’s Edge was producing errors and took some time and capacity to work out. Despite its marketing as a combined solution, getting Luminate Online and Raiser’s Edge to talk to each other also proved challenging. Ensuring ample time and patience to overcome these challenges with data transition and integration was essential for the Bruce Trail Conservancy.
The Bruce Trail Conservancy case study gives us a few lessons that can help us guide our transitions to new database solutions:
Migrating to a new system takes time. Ensure you leave a sufficient amount of time to set up and test your new database before you launch it.
When you have sophisticated engagement modules, a certain degree of customization is going to be needed. When offered a ‘package’ solution by a vendor, ensure that they fully comprehend the needs of your organization, which may differ from other organizations in unique ways.
When working with separate products (even those offered by the same vendor), ensure that they truly integrate in the ways that your organization requires. Checking in with other organizations, ideally most aligned with your own, can be a good test on marketing messages of database companies.
Learning new systems take time. Allow for sufficient staff training in your transition time.
The Database Matrix Series