Getting data (reports, queries, mailing lists, exports, dashboards, etc.) out of any fundraising system 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.

Aversion to Self-Service

The common objection to enabling self-service, ad-hoc reporting is that end-users can’t be trusted to do it correctly because 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).

‘Standard’ Limitations

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 Mix-Model Approach

The BBCRM Data Output Options paper focuses on the mixed approach described in #3 above– in particular, how to take advantage of the considerable range of output options offered by Blackbaud CRM (BBCRM) 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.


Looking to improve your reporting environment? Zuri Group can help.
Contact us for more information.


Brandon Ferris is Senior Director of CRM Services here at Zuri Group, and he brings 20 years of experience as an advancement practitioner and consultant. His advancement work has included marketing and communications, gift planning, annual giving, major giving, capital campaigns, predictive modeling, database administration, management and leadership, training, and consulting.



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