I was recently at the AFP Leadership Academy in Houston, which is one of the association’s premier training events every year, when not one, but three people asked me the question in the title above. When I am asked such a question multiple times, to me, it means a blog post is in order because many others might just want to know the answer.
The germination of the idea for Bloomerang actually began back in 1988. Master Software the creator of the most widely used fundraising software program Fund-Master had just been purchased the year before by a company located in Boston by the name of Epsilon. Unlike many of the company acquisitions occurring after this first one in our beloved non-profit technology provider sector, this particular one was a match made in heaven! (Many such acquisitions including the one Master Software was involved in ten years later resulted in products being ended, customers forced to switch before they wanted to and dedicated, loyal employees losing their jobs. Here is a recent example from a much respected consultant to the sector Robert Weiner more on such acquisitions in a future blog post…)
The key contacts I had at Epsilon, Tom Jones, Gene Henderson and the impresario John Groman were a delight to work with, had a vast knowledge of fundraising and the role databases should play, plus truly wanted us to continue to grow our business. My first involvement with corporate mergers and acquisitions left a truly pleasant, taste in my mouth!
Within a year of the acquisition, we were brainstorming with the three principles I mentioned above about add on products for Fund-Master. This meeting produced a series of executive level reports illustrating key snapshots of any fundraising database. Literally, each report provided tremendous insight into what was right and wrong with the previous year’s fundraising activity and gave strong clues on what corrections should be made for the future. This series of reports that Epsilon ran as second nature on their large scale databases became a record setting module called “FM Executive”. If you were a fundraiser in the 80’s and 90’s you might have even used them to aid in efforts.
Fast forward to 1999, myself and some other associates from Master Software came back together to create what is still the fastest pure organically grown fundraising database application that happened to also be one of the first to be in the cloud, eTapestry. I and my co-founders loved blending proven ideas and processes with brand new technology. As you might guess, it was not long before those same “FM Executive” reports became a module for eTapestry brilliantly named “Executive Reports”. Here is an example of the key report from Epsilon we used below:
GIVING DYNAMICS REPORT
|Status||# of Donors||% of Donors||1/1/2000 – 12/31/2000||1/1/2001 – 12/31/2001||$ Changed||% Changed|
Tried and true analysis which is insightful to top notch fundraisers does not change that much over the years as long as major gift fundraising is based upon relationships being created and nurtured. That is the case with these reports showing details of such relationships being built.
This is where the story’s plot starts to thicken and a bold new character bursts onto the scene. This person will be known by many, but will be a surprise to most. He became a friend and may never know just how vital his impact will be on future fundraising by most of the sector. I will reveal who this person is and what revelations they bring to this story in my next post.