eTapestry Reviews, 10 Benefits of eTapestry Donor Management Software

Category: Best Practices

Blackbaud® eTapestry® donor management software can help your organization save time, increase revenues, and make smarter data-driven decisions.  But new, existing, and prospective eTapestry users all ask the same thing. How do I get more from eTapestry? What is eTapestry good at? What features should I be taking advantage of?

As an eTapestry consultant, I’ve seen, tested, and worked with just about every component of the eTapestry platform.  eTapestry is a solid donor management software system for small, mid-sized, and growing nonprofit organizations with many features that can streamline daily tasks and improve fundraising performance.

This post outlines ten things that eTapestry does really well, from my perspective, along with how each feature works, how you can use them, and practical tips on how to get more from them.  Not all of eTapestry’s features are captured in this list, but the ten features in this list represent what I think to be eTapestry’s strengths.

If you are a prospective user looking for eTapestry reviews to determine if eTapestry is the right fit for your organization or you are a new or existing user looking to get the most from your eTapestry database, this post can help.

10 Benefits of eTapestry Donor Management Software

  • 1. Constituent Relationship Management

    Blackbaud eTapestry is a constituent relationship management database (CRM). It tracks and manages the relationships you have with donors, volunteers, staff, board members, partners, vendors, and prospects.

    eTapestry tracks profile information for every constituent including contact information, demographics, characteristics, and preferences.  eTapestry also tracks interaction histories for every constituent including gifts, pledges, pledge payments, soft credits, phone calls, emails, and meetings.

    Profile information is tracked on the account and interaction histories are tracked on the eTapestry journal.

    It is difficult to remember the details of every constituent relationship.  There are too many constituents to keep them straight.  The primary benefit of eTapestry donor management software is its ability to keep all of the details about a constituent relationship in one easily accessible place.

    Practical Tip

    Log important phone calls, emails, and meetings in eTapestry. Build relationship profiles for each constituent in the journal with notes and contacts. Review the journal before future meetings, emails, and phone calls with a constituent.

  • 2. Letters and Mail Merge

    Generate letters, envelopes, and labels in eTapestry. Merge data from the database into communications templates in batch. Create letters — which may require envelopes or labels — from a segmented list of constituents using eTapestry queries. Streamline internal processes and save time by running all printed communications through the eTapestry mail merge tool.

    When setup properly, you can run acknowledgement letters quickly and easily for different types of gifts including in-kind gifts and tribute gifts.  eTapestry’s letter and mail merge feature makes running frequent letter batches for acknowledgements and pledge reminders a snap.

    Practical Tip

    Setup a recurring process to generate acknowledgement letters. For example, run acknowledgements every Monday for all gifts received last week. Use a dynamic query with a date range of last week. The query will auto-update so you can run your letter batches the same way every week. If your organization back-dates transactions, consider using a dynamic query with the journal created date as the criteria instead of journal entry date.

  • 3. Payment Processing

    The third and fourth items in this post go together. Payment processing isn’t a unique feature to eTapestry, but it is a simple feature to integrate and use in eTapestry.

    For starters, eTapestry offers a number of payment processing options including Blackbaud Merchant Services, IATS, and Sage Payment Processing. Some of the payment processors even process EFT/ACH transactions in addition to credit card transactions.

    The ability to automatically process scheduled payments (pledges and recurring gifts) is the primary benefit of an integrated payment processor.

    • A recurring gift automatically processes on the set frequency until a stop date is entered for the gift.
    • A pledge payment automatically processes (if set to auto-process) on the scheduled payment dates until the pledge is paid off.

    Automated payment processing also integrates with your website donation forms, which is outlined in number four below. Instead of having multiple payment processors with multiple vendors, eTapestry puts all payment processing under one roof.  An integrated payment processor makes credit card and EFT/ACH transactions hassle-free.

    Practical Tip

    Setup a payment processor in your eTapestry database. The processor options available in eTapestry are competitively priced and automating scheduled payments in your database is worth the time to setup the feature.

  • 4. Online Donations

    eTapestry integrates with your website. Create and embed online web forms — called eTapestry DIY forms or Do-It-Yourself forms — and let eTapestry manage the workflow of steps related to an online donation.

    After a donor submits a donation through an eTapestry DIY form on your website…

    1. The donation is sent to your eTapestry database where eTapestry determines if the constituent already exists in the database. If the constituent exists, the system appends the gift to that constituent’s journal. If the constituent doesn’t exist, the system adds a constituent account and adds the gift to the new constituent’s journal.
    2. As the gift is posted to the journal of the constituent, the integrated eTapestry payment processor processes the gift. The funds are deposited in your bank account based on the payment processor deposit schedule.
    3. While the first two steps are happening, a confirmation email is sent to you for the new gift and an acknowledgment email is sent to the donor confirming their gift and thanking them for their gift. This feature is a major benefit!
    4. If a recurring gift was made through the form, that gift will continue to automatically process into the future based on the schedule set by the donor.

    Online donation form automation in eTapestry is easy to setup and requires no web development expertise.

    Practical Tip

    If you have different campaigns that prompt donors to give online, develop separate DIY forms for each campaign. Build the DIY form to pre-code donations for a particular campaign as they come into the database. Download our free guide on eTapestry DIY forms to learn more!

  • 5. Revenue Classifications and Reporting

    Data-driven fundraisers want to know that the strategies and tactics they use are effective. eTapestry is ready to fill the appetite of data hungry fundraising professionals. Tracking every received or raised dollar and classifying those dollars to a particular fundraising strategy is one of eTapestry’s top benefits.

    Revenue classification in eTapestry is often underutilized and sometimes misused, but when setup properly eTapestry gives you the data to determine the effectiveness of your fundraising strategies.

    eTapestry tracks revenue using a simple, three field classification: funds, campaigns, and approaches. Each transaction in eTapestry can be flagged with one value for each of these fields. When paired with your accounting system, these fields can be used to calculate metrics like cost per dollar raised and return on investment for each campaign and approach.

    Revenue classification is a top eTapestry benefit because the database comes pre-loaded with standard reports and dashboards for the fund, campaign, and approach fields. Dashboard tiles display campaign and approach performance toward a goal and standard reports offer a full view of performance in a single report.

    Practical Tip

    Develop your eTapestry fund, campaign, and approach lists based on your fundraising strategic plan. Benchmark real-time performance toward your strategic plan with goals in eTapestry.

  • 6. Custom Fields

    Every organization is unique. Fundraising methods, operational functions, and data management needs vary. Customize your eTapestry database beyond standard fundraising data sets with user-defined fields.

    Here are some examples of data you can track with user-defined fields.

    • Constituent segmentation
    • Volunteer management and activity tracking
    • Grant management
    • Moves management and major gift fundraising
    • Planned gifts
    • Special event management and ticket purchases
    • Membership management
    • Surveys and constituent feedback

    Custom fields provide flexibility for data tracking. You can add an unlimited number of custom fields to your eTapestry database.

    Practical Tip

    Develop a field blueprint before you add new fields to your eTapestry database. A field blueprint should outline the field names, field types, and field values of the fields you want to add as well as their location in your database. Also blueprint the reports you hope to generate from the new fields. A blueprint will reduce errors during the field building process.

  • 7. Standard Queries and Reports

    Standard queries and reports require no query or report knowledge to run. They are available in your eTapestry database out-of-the-box. In addition, standard reports — when combined with standard queries — can export complex data sets from your eTapestry database.

    Standard report examples include…

    • Almost Expired Auto Process Credit/Debit Cards
    • Top Donor Report
    • Pledge Cash Projection Reports
    • Aging Pledge Summary Report
    • Consecutive Months and Years Report
    • Donor Renewal Rates Report
    • Giving Dynamics Report (compares two date ranges showing new, lapsed, and renewed donors)

    These are just a few examples, but illustrate a major point. Not all fundraising and donor management systems come with pre-built reports. Not all give you the ability to analyze fundraising performance out-of-the-box.

    One of eTapestry’s advantages is that you can use standard queries and reports immediately while you build experience and proficiency with custom queries and reports.

    Practical Tip

    Run the eTapestry giving dynamics report every month during your fundraising strategic year. Compare the previous year to the current year in the report. Then monitor the net gains and net losses throughout the year. Implement strategies to minimize losses and maximize gains. Adapting your strategy to the information in this report can help your organization grow revenue year-over-year.

  • 8. Summary Report Fields

    Add summary fields to any custom report.

    Example summary fields include:

    • Year to date, One year ago, Two year ago, Three year ago, Four year ago, and Five year ago received amounts
    • Largest received amount
    • Last received amount, First received amount
    • Lifetime received amount

    Those are a few summary fields. There are others.

    Why are report summary fields on the list of eTapestry benefits?  They will save you time building reports. Instead of exporting raw transaction data to Excel and using pivot tables to calculate these values, eTapestry will do the heavy lifting with summary fields.

    Practical Tip

    Build a report that shows the five, four, three, two, and one year ago received amount summary fields along with the basic contact information for a constituent account. Run that report with the LYBUNT query (i.e. lapsed donors this year). Now you have a report with actionable “ask” information to reengage all lapsed donors.

  • 9. Data Management and Administration

    As an eTapestry administrator, you want total control over your data. Accessibility to your data is a must-have.

    Data management and data administration are benefits of the eTapestry platform. While eTapestry doesn’t provide ultimate control over your data — you cannot mass delete records from your database — it does have most of the tools you’ll need to manage a healthy database.

    • Query and Report – Export any data set from eTapestry
    • Import – Add constituents, gifts, transactions, and notes to eTapestry in batch
    • Mass Update – Update accounts, personas, transactions, notes, and contacts in a query with a specific set of fields
    • Mass Create – Create new relationships, notes, contacts, and scheduled payments and recurring gifts in a query
    • Mass Edit – Using queries, reports, and imports, you can mass edit accounts with varying fields and field values in Excel (good for account cleanup)
    • NCOA Update – See topic number ten below.

    Administrators cannot mass delete records or modify the back-end data tables of the database, but the features listed above are relatively robust for a donor management system of eTapestry size.

    Practical Tip

    Do you need to cleanup or delete old unusable records? Most of the time it is a best practice not to delete records, but you can request a mass delete from Blackbaud if needed. You will give Blackbaud a single query to delete and they will remove those records from your database for a fee. Make sure you back-up those records before the deletion process. Another way to archive a record without actually deleting it from eTapestry is to mark it as inactive with a UDF. Exclude inactive accounts from mailing lists, email lists, and other reports as needed. Use mass updates to mark accounts as inactive.

  • 10. Address Finder NCOA Updates

    National Change of Address (NCOA) updates are included in some eTapestry packages automatically. eTapestry AddressFinder NCOA updates are a fully integrated feature. You don’t need to hire an external data consultant or the software vendor to run the update. This feature contributes to overall database health!

    Select a query that includes the accounts you want to update, set a date, and eTapestry will do the rest. The AddressFinder tool will identify constituents that changed their address and either update them or flag them as unable to be updated. The AddressFinder tool will also standardize addresses or mark addresses as invalid. The tool will send you a report that qualifies your organization for reduced bulk mailing rates with the USPS as well.

    Practical Tip

    Blackbaud recommends that you run AddressFinder every ninety days. Running AddressFinder will save your organization money on mailing costs. In addition to running AddressFinder, save more money on mailing costs by using targeted queries to segmented constituent groups. This will increase conversion rates, reduce mailing costs, and is a best practice — as opposed to sending mail to the “Base – All Constituents” query.

Get the most from eTapestry donor management software

This list is a handful of things that eTapestry does really well. Blackbaud eTapestry is a solid donor management software system for small, mid-sized, and growing nonprofit organizations.  It can help your organization save time, increase revenues, and make smarter data-driven strategic decisions.  Use eTapestry reviews like this one to determine if eTapestry is the right fit for your organization or uncover new ways to get the most from your existing eTapestry database.

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