The Analytics Forecast:  Cloudy Days Ahead! | npENGAGE

The Analytics Forecast:  Cloudy Days Ahead!



Cloud Technology

In my previous blogs, I talked about some of the advantages of the cloud, including security, availability, seamless and frequent updates, zero maintenance, affordability, efficiency, and everywhere/anytime access.  While these are all important, there is another benefit of the cloud that excites me even more—analytics. Cloud analytics offer unrivaled opportunities to pinpoint the most effective ways to accelerate the mission of your organization and enable the highest quality solutions.

I’m going to touch on three types of analytics that paint an exciting forecast for nonprofits that leverage the cloud

  1. Data Health
  2. Usage Statistics
  3. Smart Software

1. Data Health

The accuracy, completeness and reliability of your data is critical to delivering your mission. When your constituent data is free of duplicates, and your address, email and social attributes are accurate and complete, you are able to communicate to your constituency more reliably and effectively, and minimize waste. Cloud-based services can keep your database updated about deceased constituents, expired credit cards, change of address information, and other contact attributes. In addition, cloud services can extend your constituent records with wealth and prospect research information that can help determine an individual’s ability and likelihood to give.

2. Usage Statistics

The cloud also enables visibility into how a system is used, which greatly enhances our ability to deliver solutions of the highest quality and value. Our engineering teams are constantly monitoring our cloud solutions and are specifically looking at usage and instrumentation analytics that help to make our products better. We can see how customers use the system and proactively detect problems. This level of visibility just isn’t possible with on-premise software installations.

Some specific examples of the benefits of usage analytics include:  

  • Determining if a new feature is discoverable and/or valuable by monitoring usage. We can make changes to future versions to ensure that features are accessible and useful.
  • Ensuring that tasks are completed with ease, and when they’re not, improving the user experience in a future update.
  • Understanding what users do most successfully.  For example, are nonprofits more successful sending emails or calling prospects directly for specific events?
  • Identifying and resolving problems before a customer ever sees it.  Cloud-based monitoring enables us to surface and identify certain issues before our users do.

Gathering this information helps us make our software as effective as possible, so you can spend more time on your mission!

3. Smart Software

Perhaps the most thrilling benefit of analytics is what we refer to as “smart software.”  A combination of usage data and data hygiene/health provides the ability to blend analytics and UI into a predictive and smart user experience.  When all of your important solutions and data are based in an integrated cloud, it’s possible to better understand who donors are, when they’re likely to give and under what circumstances.

When an organization better understands who gives and why, they can more effectively and thoughtfully engage with their constituency.

Here’s an example of the advantages of smart software from Blackbaud’s new NXT solution:

In this visualization of constituent records below,  records are tagged with “higher giving potential” and recommendations are suggested for how to deal with a given prospect. In this case, we present donors who have higher giving potential but have not donated in the last year, and recommend that their records be reviewed to determine next steps.  These donors have high capacity to give, but may have been lost in the system. These donors are flagged based on wealth screening and giving history (tendency to give and the channel by which they give), as well as historical interaction/activity with the organization.

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In this second example, data is leveraged to predict what will work best for a direct mailing campaign. Given a specific fundraising goal, the solution can walk users through developing a campaign that will yield optimal results for a specific segment of the market.  How much more successful could you be with access to benchmarks from other organizations, specific historical data, and recommendations for campaign structure?

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An integrated ecosystem means that all of your data and services can be offered together in a seamless cloud environment. And that means huge opportunity for your organization and your mission.

Can you see how the future forecast will enable your organization to grow every day?


Mary Beth Westmoreland is Senior Vice President of Product Development, responsible for product architecture, product engineering, quality assurance engineering, user experience and user education teams. She started with Blackbaud in 2008 and has over 25 years of experience in software engineering and product development. Prior to joining Blackbaud, Mary Beth was Vice President of Research and Development at Ipswitch, Inc. where she led product development for the company’s entire product portfolio, including the WS_FTP family of products and WhatsUp Gold Network Monitoring and IMail Server product suites. Before Ipswitch, Mary Beth spent 15 years at the Savannah River National Laboratory where she started as a programmer and eventually managed the company’s Enterprise and Technical Systems Engineering organizations. Mary Beth graduated with a degree in Mathematics and Physics from Immaculata University located near Philadelphia, PA. She is a member of the board of directors of the South Carolina chapter of the Make-a-Wish Foundation and is actively involved in a variety of STEM programs and Women in Technology initiatives.

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