Many Pies

Many Pies

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Blackbaud Online Express - my first impressions


I first heard about Blackbaud Online Express (BBOX) about a year ago. It's like a cut down version of NetCommunity that just does donations, emails and events, and integrates with Raiser's Edge. It's hosted, but you access it through an RE plugin. Probably like many other organisations we only use the donations and emails aspect of Raiser's Edge, so there's a lot we've paid for that we don't use. So I was very interested in it.

It also has a couple of other advantages:

  1. It costs about a fifth of the price that we're paying.
  2. It's hosted, so we don't have the overhead of running the two servers that are needed for NetCommunity. We could probably get away with one server, but we've got two currently. I know there are people who do hosted NetCommunity, but those prices are far more than the cost of buying and setting up two servers.
I've been waiting until they've had UK Direct Debit available before we started using it. It is, so we are.

Installation is pretty straightforward. You download an plugin. You need Blackbaud Merchant Services and Payment Services accounts (two different things). If you have those then you supply direct debit details - for the monthly billing, supply a few organisational details and then you're up and running and ready to create donation forms and emails. (We don't have the events module, so we won't be using those features.)

There are several steps to creating a donation form, but it leads them through you all really well. I think the effort they've put into "Discovery", i.e. web based meetings showing people early prototypes of screen design, has paid off. At the last step it presents you with the Javascript to embed into your existing site. The thing I'm doing at the moment is to tweak our CSS so that it fits in better with our existing site. There is quite a lot of control over look and feel as you design the form in BBOX, but I think it's better for maintenance to do the work in our CSS. There seems to be a bit more customisability than with BBNC, for example, section headings can be edited, and reorganised.

One thing it doesn't offer is the ability to give people logins, but although we had that feature, it wasn't something that was widely used.

Once I've got it looking how I want it my next step is to see if I can still do the same Javascript tweaks that I did on BBNC and documented in this blog. I also need to migrate our emails, so I'll blog about those things further.

Part two - email
Part three - suggestions, bugs, javascript
A bug in direct debit and a workaround
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