I took the family to London last week to visit some friends, while I spent a few days in Catch The Fire's Wembley office and attended Blackbaud's conference for non-profits. I place high value on conferences & industry events, so I had wanted to go either the DC or the London conference; London won out due to convenience. Since we're half-way through deployment of a couple of Blackbaud's products, my goals were to glean as much as I could about deployment recommendations/concerns/gotchas, and to try to strengthen my relationship with Blackbaud as a company. If you didn't attend the conference, then know that it was a fairly straightforward 2 day affair, with morning keynotes and daytime workshops/sessions. It was hosted by the Victoria Park Plaza, and made use of their great facilities on the lower 2 floors. The first evening featured a drinks reception and afterparty-of-sorts at a bar across the street.
Overall, Blackbaud threw a solid event. They've obviously got experience in assembling workshops and sessions, and knowing which of their customers can take the stage to help showcase their solutions. I obtained full value from the event by the end of the first workshop, to be honest. The keynote sessions were good, but not great: Tony Elischer was the main speaker and while he certainly had good points, he was a bit too all-over-the-place for me. The session on the second day with an ecommerce expert was decent, but I found the afternoon panel discussion to be mind-numbingly boring. I'll excuse that in this case as someone like myself wasn't necessarily the target audience, for a talk on social networking trends. The vendor Marketplace was small but effective, and I've already made some great connections with the vendors there. Two of them offered products that I have a need for immediately! Not working directly with Blackbaud Europe, I didn't spend a lot of time with the Blackbaud people in the Marketplace, but I did connect with one account manager about Blackbaud Mobile.
Blackbaud revealed 2 big things at the conference. One was an entirely new product, called Blackbaud Mobile, and the other was a mobile interface for The Raiser's Edge, letting you access your existing RE data from your smartphone or tablet.
Blackbaud Mobile is a robust mobile and social giving solution. If you've ever seen a donations short-code ("Text GIVE to 5555", for example), then you'll understand the first part of Blackbaud Mobile: generating those SMS codes and numbers. That's truly the easy part, and there are a number of vendors offering that today, albeit with various flaws and difficulties. Add to SMS shortcode generation:
- the ability to send outgoing SMS messages
- QR code generation, so you can slap a QR code on your poster or product
- social embedding, so you can add your SMS shortcodes and QR codes easily to your Facebook pages, Twitter, etc.
- HTML embedding, so you can do the same for your own pages
- campaign creation and management, so all of the above can be segregated
- analytics on the whole lot, so you can see what methods and mediums are working for each of your campaigns.