The Value of eTapestry Training: A Case for Investing in Capacity

Category: Database Admin

We’ve found that there are two types of organizations that use Blackbaud eTapestry® donor management software.  Those that look to outsource eTapestry know-how to an expert, and those who want to build internal capacity to manage eTapestry with existing staff resources.  For those looking to manage eTapestry with existing staff resources, Blackbaud eTapestry training is critical.

The Opportunity: Maximize eTapestry’s Potential

Too often, buying a donor management and fundraising database like eTapestry is about checking a box.  The rationale for purchasing eTapestry is built from the necessity for database software to track donors, donations, volunteers, and other constituents.

Once eTapestry is acquired and implemented, the box is checked and the system generally does two things: it tracks donors and it tracks donations.  The eTapestry database becomes an web-based Rolodex and donation tracking system.

Not every organization that uses eTapestry falls into this scenario, but for those that do, eTapestry adds little value to fundraising and development efforts.

Your eTapestry database should deliver the following tangible outcomes:

  • Increase fundraising revenues
  • Decrease fundraising costs
  • Increase available time for productive development activities
  • Decrease time spent on unproductive development activities
  • Make your organization’s fundraising and development functions “smarter” (which can lead to the four items above)

Achieving these outcomes is dependent on adequate investment in three core areas.

  • Invest in technology (i.e. eTapestry best practices, features, functions, and abilities)
  • Invest in process (i.e. define, design, and develop processes to manage eTapestry)
  • Invest in people (i.e. build staff capacity, capability, and expertise)

If your goal is to manage eTapestry using internal resources, investing in “people” is most critical; but investing in “people” is commonly an area where organizations underinvest.

The Challenge: Budgeting for Capacity

On paper, investing in eTapestry sounds great, but in reality building a budget for eTapestry improvements — whether those improvements are in technology, process, or people — is a challenge.

2015 survey conducted by SoftwareAdvice, a company that helps nonprofit organizations shortlist donor management and fundraising software, found that 67% of respondents listed high learning curve as a major challenge to donor management and fundraising software.  High learning curve was tied for the top challenge among the respondents of the survey.  Overcoming a high learning curve requires an investment in training.

A case must be made showing that an investment in eTapestry training addresses the high learning curve challenge and makes a positive impact on your organization.

The case for training can be found in NTEN’s annual report titled, The 8th Annual Nonprofit Technology Staffing and Investments Report.

The Proof: Making an Investment, Backed by Evidence

Every year NTEN conducts a survey of nonprofit organizations asking respondents to answer questions about their use, application, and investment in technology.  In addition, the survey asks organizations to rate their proficiency and competency with technology.  NTEN publishes the results of the survey as benchmarking data so nonprofits can compare their use of technology to their peers.

The report builds a case for the investment in “people” in order to achieve higher technology proficiency and effectiveness.

With 68% of the survey respondents having an annual operating budget of less than five million, this data can be used as evidence to support an investment in eTapestry training.

The NTEN report found that…

“As in previous years, respondents felt most confident about having the tools to do their every-day work, while they were least confident about having enough skilled technology staff or training for all staff to effectively use their technology for their every-day work.”

The report made this conclusion after finding that on a scale of 1 (less true) to 5 (more true) respondents rated themselves at 2.21 when answering the following question, “we have enough training for all staff to use technology effectively for their day-to-day work.” This question was the lowest rated of all questions asked in the report’s “Technology Effectiveness Score” area.

Respondents to the survey also rated themselves at 2.29 when answering the following question, “we have enough skilled staff to support technology functions/needs for the organization.”  This was the second lowest rated area in the report.

The report continued by finding that 55% of survey respondents stated that they either have no budget or don’t know if they have a budget for technology training.

What does this mean?

  • Respondents to the survey don’t feel that their staff are skilled or trained enough to effectively use the technology they currently have.
  • A majority of those same respondents either have no budget or don’t know if they have budget for technology training.

Why does that matter?

The report offered two key points that contextualize the conclusions about investments in technology training.

  • Organizations that were more confident in their effective use of technology via the report’s “Technology Effectiveness” measure were more likely to have budgeted for technology training for their staff.
  • When organizations rated their organization’s approach to technology, which was used to categorize respondents into one of four “Technology Adoption” levels (i.e. Struggling, Functioning, Operating, and Leading), there was a strong correlation between those with positive “Technology Adoption” measures and their investment in training for staff.

The Return: Investing in People to Get a Return

Investing in people is directly correlated to proficiency, effectiveness, confidence, and efficiency with technology. This strong correlation indicates how we can take strategic action to “get more” from Blackbaud eTapestry.

Staff members need training in order to use eTapestry effectively. Without training, expertise, capacity, and experience, your organization cannot “get the most” from eTapestry. Training for staff is a critical budget and strategic planning item. This is especially true if your organization wants to build internal capacity to manage eTapestry using internal resources.

This conclusion also makes practical and intuitive sense. Proficient eTapestry users are required to enter data, build queries, run reports, process imports, and manage data quality among other tasks. It’s logical that more training for users would lead to more proficient use of eTapestry.

Bottom Line: An adequate investment in training leads to more proficient users that in turn leads to “getting the most” from your eTapestry database.

eTapestry Training Tips

Make an investment in training that is strategic and intentional.  Here are four tips to consider when planning for eTapestry database training.

  1. Plan for frequent, semi-annual or annual eTapestry user training
  2. Make eTapestry database training a professional development goal for eTapestry users
  3. Develop user guides for common eTapestry database processes, especially if your organization experiences high staff turnover
  4. Include a heavy dose of eTapestry query and report training in your training curriculum

The Conclusion: Strategic Investments in eTapestry Training

NTEN began their report with a basic belief and premise.

“We believe that organizations are best able to meet their missions when they use technology strategically. Successful organizations make appropriate investments in both tools and staff, and integrate technology considerations into their management practices and internal processes.”

Sidekick Solutions shares NTEN’s belief.  We believe that eTapestry can be a positive contributor to your organization’s health and sustainability, but achieving that outcome requires targeted and strategic investments in capacity.  More specifically that outcome requires an investment in your people with eTapestry training.

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