APIs – to integrate or not to integrate

Raisers Edge

Find out more about JustGiving data integration with The Raiser's Edge

The Raiser’s Edge is a fundraising software and donor management database for non-profits. Azadi Sheridan, product manager, continues our ongoing conversation about APIs to discuss how if you’re in the events team, these little guys could be the answer to your prayers. 

Integrating The Raiser’s Edge with JustGiving APIs

As a product manager, last year I was lucky enough to get to build an integration between The Raiser’s Edge and JustGiving. But why should my charity integrate this data I hear you ask?

First things first, you can read in detail elsewhere what an API is and what APIs JustGiving has made to help other organisations integrate with their online participant and donor data. Put simply, for us it turned a pub conversation that went “wouldn’t it be easier for fundraisers with both The Raiser’s Edge and JustGiving to have these systems talk to each other?” into a practical reality.

But what does this mean in real terms? Well a whole lot if you’re in the events team it happens.

Before the integration, too often I’d hear: “I have to ruddy-well open each new registrant’s JustGiving page, and flick back and forth between that and The Raiser’s Edge, copying and pasting various things I hope I don’t get wrong.”

Does that sound familiar?

Save time and increase data accuracy

I won’t go into how we did it (you can see an overview of Blackbaud Links here if you like), but needless to say the integration has certainly made things a whole bunch easier:

  • No more having to manually enter new JustGiving page sign ups – Blackbaud Links will directly read from JustGiving’s systems and create new constituents for you.
  • When donations come in from JustGiving pages, they’re downloaded straight to the right Raiser’s Edge constituent with all the right gift coding, including your Soft Credits, Tributes and more.
  • Gift data entry is as simple as selecting a date range and committing those gifts to The Raiser’s Edge accurately and quickly.
  • Once Blackbaud Links is in place, it will even update your constituents’ contact details if they update them via JustGiving.

Feedback has been really positive so far. Carol Frain of East Cheshire Hospice says it saves her team a day of work a week and that it’s “easy to use and very quick”. I’m really pleased to hear her say that that it gives fundraisers an “up-to-date view of the fundraiser’s efforts across online and offline giving.”

What happens next to event donors?

Almost every week, I hear this debated. Why should we record in our database the people who have donated towards an event participant?

In the ‘against’ corner, the argument is that the donor has given to a friend and not the cause, and that historically there has been little conversion to other revenue streams.

In the ‘for’ argument, fundraisers say that it’s a good indicator that a small percentage opt in for further information from a charity – it shows genuine interest. However, those who advocate also caution that you need to market at this group of people correctly.

Mailing them with a generic ask for £x per month is costly and doesn’t seem to succeed, but emailing to get the donor engaged in the successes of your charity and asking them to give later seems to be more successful. In this scenario, you are communicating with the donor using a familiar channel and an appropriate level of (dis)engagement.

What does your charity do for donor follow-ups?

Should the event donor even be recorded on my database?

You might be surprised for someone with a career in CRM systems to hear that I’ve changed my opinion on this a number of times. Schools of thought divide much like the above, in terms of what one intends to do with donors.

The alternative argument says why not? Fundraising databases these days can rarely not handle the volume of records, and this gives the fundraiser the opportunity to analyse who is donating.

Is it true city people just get other bankers to give? Are younger fundraisers more likely to have foreign donors and do we have to cater for that? Has the donor given to other friends in a giving network we should be aware of? Based on wealth screening, do we find some of the donors very rich and worth putting the effort into a single major gift ask? These are all questions that someone with the data can ask.

The answer to this question seems to be based on an organisation’s efficiency in getting donors into their database and on the organisation’s capacity to leverage these. What do you think? Alternatively, would you record them just for the sake of completion?

What I love most about these debates is that they are focused on really good things: what the donor wants from the relationship and how the organisation best uses resources. These can be in conflict, but it’s from the Third Sector we often hear of world-changing creative solutions and I’d love to hear your ideas.

Let me know what you think in the comments below or tweet me @AzadiSheridan

If you’re interested in guest blogging for ‘We make giving social’, drop us a line at wemakegivingsocial@justgiving.com

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Azadi has worked with fundraising organisations for the best part of two decades and now has the pleasure of heading up product management for Blackbaud’s CRM products in Europe: The Raiser’s Edge® and eTapestry™. Azadi speaks regularly at conferences and dreams of things like prospect pyramids, donor to eventer conversion ratios and Doctor Who.