Tired of eTapestry? Alternatives to Switching Software
Why do some users love eTapestry and others don’t?
As eTapestry consultants, we talk to a lot of eTapestry users, and like any other software system user sentiment toward the software ranges from positive to negative.
If you are on the negative side of the spectrum, you may be wondering if moving to a different database will solve your challenges. You may even be looking for alternatives to eTapestry and exploring a switch.
If you’ve reached a breaking point, switching from eTapestry is a fair decision, but it isn’t always the best solution. Let’s take a second look at your challenges and a few solutions you can try before abandoning your eTapestry database.
1. Our data is inaccurate and messy
This is the most common complaint we hear from eTapestry users. Inconsistent data entry over a number of years, staff transitions, neglect, and undocumented procedures can all contribute to poor data health.
Solving this challenge will require an investment of time and energy to clean up, and if you want to love your donor database, you will need to address it, whether you switch from eTapestry or not.
There are two steps to solving this challenge.
1. Get a baseline level of data quality
You cannot maintain high quality data if you are always trying to catch up. If poor data quality is an issue with your system, your data needs to be cleaned up. You can move forward with ongoing data quality maintenance once you reach a foundation of data health.
- Start by cleaning up your accounts (constituents are most important)
- Next focus on funds, campaigns, and approaches (transactions)
2. Implement monthly data quality reviews
After you achieve a baseline level of data quality and are confident in your historical data, implement monthly procedures to double check new and updated data in eTapestry. We recommend reviewing all accounts and journal entries in eTapestry that are “created” in the last month (more on data quality reviews here).
2. Can’t generate reports
Queries and reports—queries in particular—can be a thorn in the side of some users, but they don’t have to be. Reporting is a key benefit of eTapestry software, so something is wrong if you are not making full use of this feature.
There are three primary reasons users find eTapestry reporting a challenge:
- Limited proficiency with query and report functionality, leading to an inability to design, format, and develop the reports you need.
- Messy or inaccurate data resulting in a lack of trust in report results (see #1 above).
- Technical limitations in the setup or functionality of your software so that it cannot produce the reports you need (for example needing to export data to Excel consistently to get a formula, pivot, or format not offered in eTapestry).
Before switching software for reporting reasons, be sure you’ve invested in proper training, data health, and system structure. Getting the most out of any software system—eTapestry or not—requires investment in these basics on a regular basis.
If your organization has limited proficiency in queries and reports, then it is important that you either build internal capacity or access external capacity to fill the gap.
Not being able to report is a direct cost to your organization. While building internal capacity through query and report training or hiring a consultant to build reports for you have costs too, not being able to report is costing you more than the cost to develop or access this capacity.
We rarely see organizations needing more robust reporting from eTapestry, but it does happen. If you’re running into a technical limitation in eTapestry, first ask yourself: is this a limitation of the software’s functionality or of the way we’ve been tracking our data?
It is common to struggle to report on data if your system has not been customized properly for accurate reporting. You cannot reliably report on data if it is inconsistently entered or tracked in fields or on records that do not lend themselves to easy reporting. If you are concerned your eTapestry database may not be structured properly, let’s talk and review your system together.
If eTapestry functionally cannot report on data in the way you need, take a look at external reporting tools like Excel. You can export raw data from eTapestry, manipulate the data, develop calculations and formulas, and create visualizations in Excel. These functions generally overcome any limitations with eTapestry’s reporting system.
3. No one knows how to use it
Does your staff not know how to use eTapestry or struggle with what should be basic tasks? More common than not, organizations that struggle with this challenge do so because they rely on one person to manage their database, and that person has since left.
Staff turnover can derail your eTapestry system, especially when only one person in the organization is responsible for the database. It’s important to invest in training, document procedures, and make smart decisions that will help you to avoid this type of knowledge drain.
There are four potential solutions to this challenge. You might even consider combining them in order to reduce the risk of losing organizational knowledge of your eTapestry database.
1. Multiple users
Your organization takes on significant risk if you have only one person dedicated to using, managing, and administering your software system. Spread out that risk by having multiple users or administrators of the software. That way the knowledge drain doesn’t cripple you if someone leaves your organization.
2. Regular training and consistent use
Develop capable users with regular training and encourage consistent use. Training should be held once per year at a minimum—more frequently if staff turnover is high. In addition, consistent daily, or, at minimum, weekly, use of the software system should be required. Building user confidence with the software system increases the system’s value.
3. User guides and manuals
Most organizations customize eTapestry. They customize the data structure, field choices, layouts, report formatting, and administrator preferences. These customizations aren’t documented in eTapestry’s help documentation, so if someone leaves the organization, the knowledge on your specific setup and procedures are lost, potentially forever.
Instead of starting from scratch when someone leaves, create user guides and manuals that describe how your system is set up and how it should be used. This will give the “next person up” a head start in getting to know your custom systems and procedures.
4. Contingency planning
Do you have a plan for what to do when an important eTapestry user leaves the organization? If no, why not? A couple of hours spent planning for this scenario might be the difference between a sustainable eTapestry database and thousands of dollars invested in starting from scratch with a new system.
4. It doesn’t have the features we need
Are you tracking data in spreadsheets that you wish you had in a single system? Are you trying to implement a strategy or improvement and aren’t sure that eTapestry can do what you need?
There are few all-in-one donor database solutions available, and if you’re looking for a flexible option, eTapestry is high on the list. Before you switch away, be sure you’ve explored the extent of eTapestry’s capabilities and considered eTapestry integrations.
Fundraising strategies change constantly and so do your demands of your donor software. One year you may have an exclusively online strategy; another, grants and direct mail. You must invest in your software to keep it current and ensure you have the systems and functionality that help you to meet your goals.
If eTapestry doesn’t have the functionality you need, you may be able to customize it. Fields, queries, reports, and procedures can be built to accommodate most data, like grants, major gifts, or programs, and allow you to track, report, and manage custom strategies or programs. Alternatively, consider integrating eTapestry with an application that offers the features and experience you need using the eTapestry API.
5. Cost is high, can’t define our return on investment
What are we getting for the cost?
Your eTapestry database isn’t the most expensive donor management software on the market, but it isn’t an insignificant cost either. This challenge is usually caused by a combination of factors but is evidenced when your organization isn’t getting the most from the system.
Your eTapestry database should save time, money, and stress, helping to grow revenue, decrease fundraising costs, and improve the effectiveness of your fundraising efforts. If you don’t feel that, then you aren’t getting the most from the system.
The solution for this challenge is to conduct an evaluation. The steps taken after an evaluation will vary from organization to organization.
1. Assess the benefits
Write down all of the ways you feel eTapestry helps you. Benefits may include any of the following things:
- Increases or grows revenues
- Decreases costs
- Increases available time for productive activities
- Decreases time spent on unproductive activities
- Makes your organization “smarter” (which can lead to the four items above)
2. Assess the costs
Write down all of the costs associated with eTapestry. This includes the monetary cost of eTapestry as well as the time, effort, and cost you put into managing, using, and maintaining the system. Don’t forget to include the costs of systems you use in parallel with eTapestry (like Constant Contact or Everyday Hero).
3. Analyze the costs to benefits
Look at the balance or imbalance between the benefits and costs. Is there an imbalance one way or another? Do the benefits outweigh the costs or vice versa? If this evaluation gives you enough information, stop here and take action from the results. If you want more, contact the account manager in charge of your account at Blackbaud or a trusted consultant to help you brainstorm actions you can take to correct the imbalance and press the benefits higher.
Before you make a switch, let’s talk
Too many organizations needlessly struggle with eTapestry. If you feel like eTapestry isn’t getting you what you need, let’s talk.
Sometimes a different perspective is enough to get you heading in the right direction. Schedule a free consultation with one of our eTapestry experts and let’s see how we can make eTapestry easier to use and more capable for you.
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