Last week at bbcon in National Harbor, Mike Gianoni told the audience of 2,500 change-makers, “You’re here because you know the power of a moment…because we know that a moment can change everything.” And how right he was. Soon after, the audience was the first to hear the announcement of something truly momentous: the Blackbaud Institute for Philanthropic Impact. This new initiative will leverage Blackbaud’s network and database to produce research on the performance of the philanthropic sector and drive greater impact on social issues.

I got to talk with Ashley Thompson, Managing Director of the Blackbaud Institute, about the initiative and the value it will deliver to our social good community. We streamed our interview on Facebook Live—check out the full video here.

When I asked Ashley how the Blackbaud Institute came about, she shared that Blackbaud leaders “realized we are at a unique moment as a company. We now not only serve nonprofits and educational institutions but also foundations and corporate giving programs and individuals.” With that expanded market, the company also now has a larger database of giving data than ever—in fact, it’s the most comprehensive data set in the philanthropic sector. As Ashley put it, Blackbaud realized that “this great wealth of data on philanthropic giving provides us a unique opportunity to give back through research and insights.”

While Blackbaud has always provided information and expertise on fundraising, the Blackbaud Institute will take that to the next level by conducting deep research on giving to find the real, data-backed best practices that every organization can follow to have the most impact. With the huge amount of advice and information on fundraising out there, the Blackbaud Institute’s research will aim to get to the bottom of hot topics to find what really, truly works. The first research piece released by the Blackbaud Institute does just that—it addresses common myths about sustained giving programs and reveals the true ROI of recurring gifts. Check out this first piece, Sustainers in Focus: Uncovering the Value of Retained Revenue, in the Blackbaud Institute’s new Resource Library .

And the Blackbaud Institute won’t just stop at research.

Another pillar of the initiative is to reach out to a broad range of partners outside of Blackbaud and collaborate with them in developing insights. Ashley aims to “be able to build a more diverse perspective” by partnering with experts across the sector and beyond—including social innovators, government entities, and corporations. Social change-makers are increasingly recognizing the power of collaboration in solving social issues. The Blackbaud Institute hopes to tap into that same kind of collective thinking to develop deeper insights and push the philanthropic sector to be more effective. They’ll be announcing partners and collaborations as the initiative develops.

As we heard in Aaron Sherinian’s keynote presentation on Day 1 of bbcon, philanthropy isn’t just on the verge of something new, we’re in it. The Blackbaud Institute will accelerate our ability as social change-makers to think big, focus our efforts on what works, and have true impact on the causes we’re passionate about. The moment is now—and efforts like this will ensure that none of our important causes gets left behind.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Erin Duff, Senior Marketing Associate at Blackbaud, is passionate about empowering social innovators to change the world. She manages editorial production and content marketing for the company’s thought leadership initiatives. Erin joined Blackbaud after serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA at an antipoverty nonprofit in Austin, TX. When she’s not wading through inspiring research and writing, she teaches an adult ESL class and brushes up on Titanic trivia.

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