Jul/Aug 2008

Nonprofits Reach Common Ground for Building Stronger Constituent Relationships

by Sam Heywood, Senior Product Manager, Convio

For years, the nonprofit sector has looked to Convio for products and expertise to help them use the Internet for marketing, advocacy and fundraising. But, over the last few years as we've studied the impact that marketing channels have on each other, we've witnessed convergence. We've seen that when combined, face-to-face, traditional direct response (mail, phone, DRTV), events and online efforts have a greater impact than when used alone. At the same time, we've heard nonprofit organizations asking for technology to manage all constituent types — not just donors.

In response, we sought to deliver a farther-reaching approach than the traditional donor database. The result: Convio Common Ground™ — a new system for nonprofits that moves beyond donor management to Constituent Relationship Management (CRM). It's a common ground for storing, managing, understanding and using all of the information that nonprofits have to create stronger relationships with their constituents. And, it incorporates the benefits of an open, Web-based system that today's nonprofits are demanding.

Here are just a few things that make Common Ground different from any nonprofit-specific software system you've seen before:

  1. It moves you beyond traditional donor management.
    Instead of juggling multiple spreadsheets or sinking heaps of dollars and time into storing and maintaining data in a donor database, you can use information in a concerted way across your organization to achieve your goals. Here's how: In addition to functionality that you expect from a traditional donor database, Common Ground allows you to easily pull together information from multiple tools — without having to pay extra fees for access to programming interfaces — to manage all of your data in one place and get a complete view of your constituents and their activities with your organization. And, it allows you to manage access for different members of your organization so you can protect your data.

  2. It lets you make your CRM system your own.
    With many donor databases, customizing even the smallest of things — like data fields — to correlate with the way your nonprofit operates can require costly vendor services. But, Common Ground is different. It's built on one of the leading CRM systems in the world — the open technology platform Force.com from salesforce.com™. This allows Convio to leverage a comprehensive, proven and continually improving base of CRM functionality to build a nonprofit-specific system that gives you greater flexibility and more highly customizable features than a traditional donor database. For example, using simple point-and-click wizards, you can design custom user interfaces and modify the structure of the Common Ground data model and business logic. For more complex customizations, the Force.com platform provides Apex, the world's first on-demand programming language, as well as toolkits for the most common programming languages.

  3. It's approachable.
    Most nonprofits would rather focus on their missions than on creating and maintaining technology. Like Convio's online marketing products, Common Ground is delivered via a Software as a Services (SaaS) model. This means that you don't have to worry about costly hardware purchases, software installation, backups, maintenance, upgrades or other IT-related tasks. It's available anytime, anyplace via the Internet (something that legacy donor databases simply weren't designed for). The result: You and your team can focus on your mission and on being more productive with the new insights you have into relationships with your constituents.

  4. It helps you tap into an unmatched CRM network.
    You might not know what your nonprofit will face tomorrow — what challenges you may encounter; what technology solutions you may need. Common Ground comes with an entire community ready to help you move into the future. Since it's built on the Force.com platform, Common Ground gives you access to existing, extensive third-party applications from the salesforce.com AppExchange marketplace. It also gives you access to a universe of salesforce.com partners and Convio Fusion partners who provide a wide range of consulting, implementation and other services with a deep understanding of the Common Ground platform. And, it's integrated with many brand name Web products, including Facebook™, Google™, Yahoo™ and LinkedIn™.

  5. It was based on feedback from nonprofits, for nonprofits.
    For nearly a decade, hundreds of nonprofits have relied on Convio's SaaS system for using the Internet for fundraising, marketing and advocacy. And, along the way, they've been asking us to bring our experience and expertise to tackle the limitations, hassles and headaches of their legacy donor database systems. Common Ground is the answer to those requests.

Reaching Common Ground

As with most good things, nonprofits will have to wait a little longer before they can reach Common Ground. Convio announced a charter program in June 2008 in which a group of select organizations was deployed on Common Ground, but the product will be generally available to the nonprofit sector this fall.

If you'd like to receive behind-the-scenes news and see a sneak peek of the product before it is generally available, visit www.convio.com/crm to sign up.

Nonprofits Reach Common Ground for Building Stronger Constituent Relationships | Convio