It’s a collaboration and research initiative intended to work through sector-wide problems and distribute findings.
Rachel Hutchisson, vice president of corporate citizenship and philanthropy for the Charleston, S.C.-based company, unveiled the institute this morning during bbcon, the company’s annual conference here. “Our goal is to do important work and drive insights and help you put them to practical use,” Hutchinsson said during her talk on the company’s corporate citizenship.
“To see a healthy, sustained movement, the social good community needs to be able to access and leverage an ongoing stream of actionable insight,” said Mike Gianoni, Blackbaud’s president and CEO. “In collaboration with our strategic partners, the Blackbaud Institute will tackle the most pressing questions on the topic of philanthropy; equipping the world’s change agents with the knowledge they need to contribute to a thriving ecosystem of good,” he said.
“We’ve been working on this for a while, we’re in an interesting moment in Blackbaud’s history,” said Catherine LaCour, senior vice president of corporate marketing — referencing the company’s expansion from the nonprofit to social impact space. “For us, it’s about the entire social good market, the whole ecosystem.” Blackbaud, given its wide base, is in a unique position to gather stakeholders, LaCour said, and sector leaders have identified a need for more agenda-free research.
The institute is intended to serve three functions, according to LaCour:
- Provide Blackbaud with a means of giving back to the sector as it expands into broader stakeholder groups;
- Collaborate with industry experts in tackling issues ranging from fundraising to outcomes; and,
- Offer findings to the social sector as a whole for free.
Blackbaud executive Ashley Thompson will be the first managing director. There will also be several specialists dedicated to the institute, which will also fund “product agnostic” research. LaCour declined to get into specifics on how much the institute will cost other than to say that the company has ambitious intentions for it and will thus support it appropriately.
The research the institute will undertake will range from indexes to deep-dives into specific issues, according to LaCour. Studies are expected to feature both “leading indicators,” including actionable material, as well as “lagging indicators,” material that is more retrospective but that can be used to predict what is coming down the pike.
Institute heads will be reaching out to sector leaders early next year to help guide where research will be focused. Company leaders have already convened with those in the sector during one-on-one meetings and small dinners to hash out preliminary ideas. “Sustainers in Focus,” the first in a three-part series on recurring revenue, was also released on Wednesday and represents the institute’s first report – one fueled by those small meetings.
Leaders at Blackbaud intend to expand the institute’s reach through live forums next year. Industry partners include usual suspects such as NTEN and the Association of Fundraising Professionals, but a goal for the institute is to incorporate voices that seldom get a seat at the table, LaCour said. Anya Samek, associate professor of economics at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, has, too, emerged as a partner.
Research will also stem from work Blackbaud has previously done over the years, including evaluating questions frequently asked by customers. In addition to expanding future research efforts, the institute’s website, institute.blackbaud.com, features a research library that features past research searchable by date, topic and type.
“This is really about taking the work we’ve been doing and really taking our research to the table,” LaCour said. “We’ve had it for years. We’re expanding it.”
Blackbaud is a public company listed on the NASDAQ exchange (BLKB). It opened today at $64.87 a share, roughly midway between its 52-week low and high of $49.89 and $71.76. Yahoo Finance posted a one-year target on the stock at $75.22 per share.