Blackbaud, Microsoft Expand Cloud Initiative

Blackbaud and Microsoft are jointly investing in an Integrated Cloud Initiative for Nonprofit and co-launching a product to accelerate cloud innovation across the mission lifecycle.

The companies today introduced at Blackbaud’s annual user conference bbcon2018 in Orlando, Fla., the Nonprofit Resource Management (NRM), what they described as a purpose-built resource management suite optimized for nonprofits.

From managing the distribution of material goods to financial and human capital distribution, NRM will help nonprofits ensure accurate and efficient distribution of resources and integrates across core business processes in the first solution suite jointly developed between the two companies.

“For nonprofits, particularly in the relief and aid space, the ability to effectively source, track, distribute and measure the impact of physical goods is a critical part of delivering their mission,” Jay Odell, president and general manager, Blackbaud Nonprofit Solutions, said in an announcement. “Whether it’s urgently needed medical supplies, disaster response equipment, or essential needs like food and clothing, every dollar saved, and every supply more efficiently distributed has the power to transform and save lives,” he said.

NRM is the first resource management solution designed specifically for unique needs of nonprofits and the patterns and practices of resource distribution.

“If you’re a large refugee management organization or a mid-sized food bank, you need to buy an off-the-shelf solution,” Odell said, then configure it, typically through expensive consulting. “What we’re doing is pre-configuring that to take out the complexity to allow you to manage goods across the organization,” he said.

NRM, which will be sold through both companies’ partner and sales channels, works seamlessly with Blackbaud’s flagship fundraising and other Blackbaud nonprofit solutions, providing a connected experience across the mission lifecycle. This integrated innovation offers an unprecedented solution to help nonprofits address the $14 billion funding gap for humanitarian aid described in the Global Humanitarian Overview 2018.

“The Integrated Cloud Initiative for Nonprofits extends our joint commitment to help nonprofit organizations achieve loftier outcomes and improve the communities and issues they serve,” said Kevin McDearis, chief products officer at Blackbaud. “Nonprofit Resource Management will transform the way the sector captures and distributes resources to address the ever-increasing need and add value to the social economy. Combining Blackbaud’s industry expertise and pace of innovation with Microsoft Dynamics 365 and the Common Data Model for Nonprofits will allow us to jointly and rapidly deliver solutions that propel nonprofits forward in a very significant way.”

NRM will leverage the best of organizations and the hope is to become a common data model for nonprofits with a consistent way to report outcomes and use advanced artificial intelligence (AI) against nonprofits’ data models to get insights that they previously could not, according to Justin Spelhaug, general manager, Microsoft Tech for Social Impact. “We hope it comes the industry model and powers multiple” solutions, he said.

For example, in one refugee camp, there are 29 nonprofits providing some 140,000 refugees all kinds of services but each has a different system and understanding of service delivery, Spelhaug said, so there’s no way to understand which services have the greatest impact because they can’t exchange that information in any way.

The NRM solution suite is presently in development in collaboration with early adopters. The first capability set, Goods Distribution, will be released in summer 2019, with program design and others to follow.

Nonprofits previously have not had a true resource management solution designed specifically for their unique needs, nor one that provides visibility into the unique patterns and practices of resource distribution. They rely on cumbersome spreadsheets, homegrown solutions, or antiquated tools to track inventory management on gifts-in-kind and goods distribution—resulting in lost time, wasted resources, vulnerability to fraud, and underutilized human and physical capital.

This is the second recent initiative for the tech companies. Blackbaud and Microsoft announced an expanded partnership at last year’s bbcon event to digitally transform the nonprofit space. It had a three-point commitment: deeper integration between Microsoft and Blackbaud solutions; joint sector leadership initiatives that make innovation, research and best practices more accessible to nonprofits around the world; and a commitment to pursuing best-in-class nonprofit cloud solutions that bring together the best of both companies’ innovation.

“Over the past 12 months, Microsoft and Blackbaud have prioritized building product integrations in high-impact areas defined by nonprofits and partnered with NetHope as founding partners of The Center for the Digital Nonprofit,” Spelhaug said. “We’ve listened to the nonprofit community and are committed to building integrated solutions that work together and help these change-making organizations unleash the power of data in ways the market has not yet seen,” he said.

Yesterday at the conference, Blackbaud announced its Cloud Solution for Higher Education, an adaptation of its commercial solution for private, K-12 schools. Engineering teams had to deliver 60 new feature points, which was two years in the making, to support the colleges and universities market segment that initially will be served, McDearis said. The core of the project, about 60 percent of it, was based on the K-12 school product that’s been running for 10 years, he said.

The Integrated Cloud Initiative for Nonprofits will deliver interoperable, performance-enhancing solutions that address needs from raising resources to delivering programs, managing operations and measuring outcomes. The two companies will combine the power of Blackbaud’s nonprofit solutions with innovative, jointly-developed and -delivered cloud capabilities built on Microsoft Dynamics 365 that leverage the Common Data Model for Nonprofits and Blackbaud’s Intelligence for Good™, all backed by Microsoft Azure.