Many Pies

Many Pies

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Online Express - third post

See part one and part two.

One improvement on BBNC

Although OnlineExpress does less than NetCommunity can, there is one thing that it can do that NetCommunity can't - it can send an email to an organisation! I think the reason that Blackbaud have never put this feature in, even though it sounds like a really simple thing to do, is because they were tackling the bigger question of "what does it mean for an organisation to be a NetCommunity user" rather than "send to this email address on an org record".


There's a suggestion site for BBOX: and with fortnightly releases the pace of bug fixes and improvements should be quite high. One Blackbaud employee spotted my original bug post, looked at my donation form, and suggested a fix for a CSS problem that I had. That's good service!


I've submitted five support cases because of bugs, all of which are hopefully fairly minor, but annoying. I've found a sixth but I couldn't find the exact steps to reproduce it, even though it was repeatable at the time. (Update: 24 Oct 2014 - one went away, and three were fixed with an update that arrived three days ago. That's about six weeks from reporting to fix, which isn't bad. Since I originally wrote this I've submitted two more.)

Tweaking with javascript

I've previously published code snippets on this blog for ways to get NetCommunity to do things that it can't out of the box. Mostly these are just modifying form fields. Here's how I've done it on BBOX.

You'll need the waitUntilExists jQuery extension. Then you use it to wait for the donation button to appear. Then you find the particular element you want to change. In this example, even though you can customise the form so it says posttown instead of city, the placeholder text still says city.

Update:modifying gift amounts or designation is now built into Online Express - they are called magic links and when you're designing a donation form on the "That's it" tab it has a button to give you information on what to do.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Blackbaud Online Express - email

Hard on the heels of my previous blog entry on Online Express, here are my first impressions of the email component.

One of the drawbacks of the NetCommunity email offering was the TinyMCE-based HTML editor. Like many HTML editors it's hard to get what you want without diving into the behind-the-scenes HTML view. To be fair, part of this is the broken nature of HTML email.

What Online Express does is offer you little flexibility, which is it's strength. There a limited number of layouts. You can put in images, text (including links), images and text, divider lines, donation links, and social buttons. That's it. However the images can be aligned left or right of the text, which was always the problem with the TinyMCE editor. There are some things that mean our new emails won't look exactly like our old emails, but I can live with those for the advantages it gives.

You can pull in lists from Raiser's Edge. You can have a signup form. You can see stats. That's pretty much it, and that's all I think I want.

So far, I'm pretty impressed.

Part three

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