The Analytics Forecast: Cloudy Days Ahead! | npENGAGE

The Analytics Forecast:  Cloudy Days Ahead!

By on Sep 2, 2015


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 and Chief Technology Officer, responsible for leading Blackbaud’s worldwide technology strategy, architecture and user experience across the company’s entire solution portfolio. She has 30 years of experience in software engineering.

Prior to Blackbaud, Mary Beth was Vice President of R&D at Ipswitch, Inc. She also spent 15 years at the Savannah River National Laboratory starting as a programmer and eventually leading the company’s Technical Systems Engineering organizations.

Mary Beth was named one of the 2017 Top 50 Most Powerful Women in Technology by the National Diversity Council. She is a member of the board of directors of Make-a-Wish SC Foundation, a CS Advisory Board Member for Clemson University and is involved in many other STEM initiatives. She graduated from Immaculata University with a degree in Mathematics/Physics.

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