How to Use Exports and Imports for eTapestry Integrations

Category: Best Practices

Reducing the amount of time spent on data entry in Blackbaud® eTapestry® is a priority for most organizations. Even though data needs to get into your eTapestry database, data entry tasks take time and can be monotonous, especially if you are entering data in large batches.

Your eTapestry database comes with a handful of integrations that streamline data entry. They include DIY forms, payment processors, Constant Contact, and some other Blackbaud fundraising products.

But how do you connect other software with your database when they aren’t on the standard eTapestry integrations list?

Let’s explore a few eTapestry integration options, the eTapestry integrations that are requested the most, and how to use exports and imports as a universal adapter to any software that isn’t on the standard eTapestry integrations list.

Top requested eTapestry integrations

Most nonprofit organizations use a combination of software applications in their fundraising activities. These applications are external to eTapestry and include email marketing, accounting, payment processing, email and calendar, and event management.

In our experience, eTapestry users are looking for integrations with the following external software applications.

  • MailChimp
  • QuickBooks Online
  • Payment processors (like PayPal, Stripe, etc.)
  • Web forms (like Wufoo, Formstack, Custom Web Form, etc.)
  • Calendar tools (like Google Calendar, Microsoft Office, etc.)
  • Email (like Gmail, Outlook, etc.)
  • Event and Auction Software (Greater Giving, Eventbrite, etc.)

The good news is that you have options if you want to integrate the applications listed above with your eTapestry database. Even better, at least one of the eTapestry integration options is something every eTapestry user can implement.

Have questions about eTapestry integrations? Let’s chat to review your options.

Three options for eTapestry integrations

In each eTapestry integration option, the mechanism for transferring the data and the mesh point (the tool that converts the data between the two applications) varies, which ultimately determines the amount of time and effort required to execute the integration.

  • 1. Manual data entry

    You might be thinking, “wait a second, this post is about integrations.”

    We will get to the more exciting eTapestry integration options soon, but technically manual data entry is an integration between eTapestry and another software application.

    In this case, you are the integration.

    As the person completing data entry, you are moving the data from one system into eTapestry (or vice versa).

    Although manual data entry isn’t ideal for large batch data transfers between eTapestry and another software application, it is a viable method in some cases.

    The benefits of manual data entry outweigh the costs in situations where:

    • The data set is small and doesn’t take a long time to enter manually
    • The cost of data entry time (by a volunteer, intern, or another staff member) is negligible
    • The funds, time, or energy to implement another integration option aren’t available
  • 2. Exports and imports using Excel

    Excel is a universal adapter to almost every software application. If you can get data out of a software application (including eTapestry) and into Excel, you can almost always put that data into another software application (including eTapestry).

    Exports and imports still require a human element. Someone must act as the transfer mechanism or mesh point between the two software applications and that person may even need to manipulate the data in Excel before importing into the target application (the final destination of the data).

    Exports and imports (coming into and out of eTapestry) are the best options in situations where:

    • The data set is large and would take a long time to enter manually
    • The data set to be moved is a one-time task and not a high-frequency recurring task
    • The funds, time, or capacity to complete exports and imports aren’t available
  • 3. Custom eTapestry API integration

    When you think about eTapestry integrations, you probably imagine a seamless, hands-free transfer of data to and from your eTapestry database. The word “integration” is often paired with words and feelings like pain-free, automatic, low impact, and real time.

    This vision is possible using the eTapestry API (Application Programming Interface).

    The eTapestry API is free to use. You must request that Blackbaud activate the eTapestry API for your database.

    The eTapestry API pushes data into eTapestry and pulls data from eTapestry.

    The eTapestry API isn’t plug and play because it requires custom programming, but it is flexible enough to handle nearly any integration project.

    The eTapestry API isn’t the right solution for every integration scenario, but here are few scenarios where it works well.

    • The data set to be moved is a high-frequency recurring task (real time, hourly, or daily)
    • The data set is large and highly customized where import file formatting isn’t viable
    • The funds, time, and capacity to complete exports and imports aren’t available

    Looking for a custom API integration? We can help. Let’s chat and see if our development services are a good fit for your project.

The default integration option: Exports and Imports

Among the various integration options, exports and imports are commonly written off or forgotten about.

We recommend that exports and imports be the default integration option unless another option has a better return on time (more on how to calculate return on time later in this post).

eTapestry —> Other Application

Your eTapestry database is often the hub for fundraising, development, donor, and constituent data. Other applications generally branch off of eTapestry as supplementary tools.

For example, you may need to run an email campaign in MailChimp using a segmented list of constituents in a query from eTapestry. You may also need to export a list of event attendees from eTapestry so that you can organize them by table and assign a bidder number in your event and auction management software.

> Transferring data OUT OF eTapestry is a three-step process.

  • Step 1: Set up a custom query and report in eTapestry with the records and fields you need for import into the “Other” application. Export the data in the custom query and report to Excel.
  • Step 2: Modify the data in Excel to align with the data requirements, rules, and formatting of the “Other” app. Prep the file for import into the “Other” application using manual data manipulation techniques in Excel like filters, sorting, formulas, and find and replace or set up a macro to do those tasks for you.
  • Step 3: Using the modified Excel file, import the data into the “Other” application and complete any data quality reviews or checks needed to verify that the data transferred properly.

Other Application —> eTapestry

Getting data into eTapestry is a priority if you host an event and track attendees, collect email subscribers from an external web page, a volunteer leads a third-party fundraiser on your behalf, or a variety of other use cases where data is tracked external to eTapestry. All of that data needs to find its way into your eTapestry database.

Pulling data from multiple sources into eTapestry lets you generate aggregate reports in eTapestry across all characteristics, preferences, and activities associated to your constituents.

> Transferring data INTO eTapestry is also a three-step process.

  • Step 1: Create a blank Excel file with column headers that represent the fields you intend to import into eTapestry. Save the formatted Excel file as your eTapestry import template in preparation for Step 2.
  • Step 2: Transfer the data from the “Other” application export into the eTapestry import template. Pay attention to data formatting and make sure the data in the import template aligns with the eTapestry import requirements. Prep the file for import using manual data manipulation techniques in Excel like filters, sorting, formulas, and find and replace or set up a macro to do those tasks for you.
  • Step 3: Import the formatted file into eTapestry using the eTapestry import utility. Complete any data quality reviews or checks to verify that the data transferred properly.

Export and import tips and best practices

Exports and imports are powerful workflow integration tools.

Most eTapestry users think of imports as one-time batch processes, but imports can also be used for recurring integration tasks (generally with a relatively low frequency, like monthly).

Outline the repeatable steps in the workflow and execute them on a weekly or monthly processing schedule. You will find that the workflow will take less time each time you complete it (this is called the “Learning Curve”).

Here are some other tips and best practices to consider when designing recurring import procedures for eTapestry.

  1. Draft a user guide – Document the workflow steps in a Google Doc or Word document.
  2. Save import templates – Save a template of the blank Excel import file. Copy the template for each successive import.
  3. Time the process from start to finish – Use a stopwatch to time the workflow from start to finish for the first 3-6 months. See if the time to complete the process decreases.

Calculate the return on investment (ROI) of eTapestry integrations

Imports can save your organization time over manual data entry in most situations and a custom eTapestry API integration may be able to save you even more time over an import.

So how do you decide which integration method to use?

Conduct a quick break-even analysis.

  • Multiply the time it takes to manually enter one record in eTapestry times the number of records you plan to import.
  • Then time yourself on a standard import procedure to see how long it takes to import records.
  • Get a quote for a custom API integration for eTapestry.
  • Determine how much an hour of your time costs and multiple that times the time calculated in the manual data entry and import scenarios.

Now you can calculate break even for all three integration options.

This quick break-even analysis will show you when to import data, when to manually enter the data, or when to develop a custom eTapestry API integration.

Have questions about eTapestry integrations? Let’s chat to review your options.

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