« Six Tips To Kick-Start Your 2012 Fundraising | Main | New Book "Share, Retweet, Repeat" Reveals the Secrets of Viral Campaigning »

Blackbaud Buys their Rival Convio: Now What?

The nonprofit community was stunned yesterday when Blackbaud purchased long time rival Convio. According to Blackbaud President Marc Chardon, “Combining Convio and Blackbaud is expected to help create one of the largest SaaS vendors with over $440 million in trailing twelve months pro forma revenue.” So what does this acquisition mean for the nonprofit community, in particular for the 1500+ customers that use Convio? No one really knows for sure yet. But the community has a lot of opinions about the acquisition.

“When we are sitting in between the announcement and the actual change, we can go many directions with speculation - from hopes to fears," said Amy Sample Ward of NTEN. "Personally, I see this acquisition as another link in a chain of events over the last few years that are sending a clear signal. Whether it was the news like Ideablob shutting down, Causes leaving MySpace, or Blackbaud buying Convio, the message to individuals and organizations alike is this: we always have and will continue to have an opportunity to call for what we want and build it. If we choose to only invest in tools or platforms that we are not engaged with, we are putting too many eggs in one basket. If we invest in tools and communities that engage with us to build the solutions we need, we put ourselves and our missions in a better place. That said, I know Blackbaud has made efforts to engage its users and I hope that this kind of collaboration will only increase.”

Colin Delany, Editor of Epolitics.com says “some of us were on GetActive back when Convio bought it (2007?). I'm using Convio at a different organization now, and frankly I don't see any significant advantage the merger brought to customers, and all I really expect from this new development is less competition in the market. But of course, I'm only using Convio's CRM/advocacy/fundraising tools, not their "Luminate" Salesforce-based database, so perhaps I'm missing something that will make a difference."

"In any case, good thing we still have Salsa and NationBuilder," said Delany.

Here’s my personal take.

The Good

When two strong companies come together who already have a solid foundation in the market place, there is enormous potential to create an even better product and customer service. Of course there is a downside to mergers like this too, which we will discuss in “The Bad” section below.

Both Convio and Blackbaud have some incredibly talented developers, marketers, and leaders at their companies. Working side by side towards a shared vision can lead to some major product innovation if these relationships are properly nurtured and egos are left at the door.

With two of the biggest enterprise companies in the nonprofit sector merging, the market is ripe for smaller vendors to come into the market place and provide similar services for smaller to medium size organizations at lower price points. There are already some robust companies serving these types of organizations like Action Kit, Engaging Networks, NationBuilder, Salsa Labs, etc.

It would be the nonprofit world's dream to see Raisers Edge seamlessly integrate with Convio and Blackbaud and not have to do manual imports/exports. This would make fundraising so much easier.


The Bad:

When nonprofits are looking at big enterprise systems their go-to vendors are Blackbaud and Convio. Now the two have merged. So where’s the competition? However, with Salsa Labs recent $5M infusion of venture capital, they certainly can become competitive in the enterprise market. Also Blue State Digital plays a role here too.

Convio users MAY eventually be forced to migrate to Blackbaud just as Get Active clients were forced to migrate to Convio. And for many nonprofits the experience was not a seamless transition.

Some people will probably loose their jobs. No merger is painless. To keep the company profitable, inevitably there are going to be some layoffs.

And so it goes. What kind of an impact do YOU think Blackbaud's acquisition of Convio will have?


Reader Comments (17)

When I heard this news, my thought was, things are going to get even more expensive. Fortunately, there are a few new vendors out there providing donor database services (and not just CRM stuff that is for marketing and retooled for nonprofits, like SalesForce).

Blackbaud has been the gorilla in the marketplace; their fees tend to be prohibitive for some nonprofits. With amazing functionality but steep training fees, many nonprofits just scratch the surface total usability. Binding their acquisitions to existing software isn't always pretty (Raiser's Edge w/ Education Edge is not what I would call seamless).

I hope Blackbaud is as dedicated to serving their customers as they are to their shareholders!
January 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBeth Ann Locke
A Blackbaud/Convio merger gives me the creeps, honestly, as it's a further consolidation of power in the non-profit fundraising/merchant processing industry. There are companies out there providing comprehensive and complex services that aren't priced exorbitantly- like us- and the pricing of both Convio and Blackbaud's services are truly too high for the 'average' non-profit to use. For well-funded and donor-supported groups, it may be reasonable to spend 5 or 6 hundred dollars a month on management tools and merchant processing service fees (not including the actual percentage discount cost of processing payments online). For smaller non-profits or non-profits that have very high ops costs, it is not. While I think the acquisition/merger was probably a smart move on the part of both of these companies, I doubt very much that it will truly 'benefit' their current clients or potential organizations interested in using either service.
January 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAJ
The Ugly: the single largest vendor of nonprofit fundraising and constituent management software is a publicly-traded, profit-driven entity that charges huge fees. Hate to say it - but here's the 1% benefiting from the 99% yet again.
January 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle Murrain
Thanks great article
I am wondering what else is on the acquisition trail for Blackbaud?
What is missing from their vast array of products now?
Mobile giving must be the holy grail for charities and the intermediaries that service them. After all we have our phones with us all the time weather we like it or not and are exposed to most of the charities marketing ad spend or exposure whilst we are not in front of our PC's (TV, Radio, Newspapers, Magazines, Billboards, In Store etc..)
The on-line PC based giving market is highly competitive even with this acquisition but the on-line mobile giving market is still wide open. If I were worries about anti competitiveness in the market from a provider point of view I would focus on the charitable mobile giving and marketing industry which still has a long way to go in its evolutionary cycle.
January 18, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermartin haigh
Honestly I think this hurts innovation for the industry as a whole. While each have great talent, It's difficult to believe that the employees of former enemies will come together and really create something better for the nonprofit community. Not only that, but does Blackbaud really plan to continue to support all of the products and services that they've acquired over the years (GetActive, Kintera, etc.)? Obviously they plan to transition folks off some of these products, and I can't help but wonder how painful that transition will be for those organizations.

But the real question is, how do organizations that actively chose Convio over Blackbaud feel? While Convio's product offerings may continue to be available, there has to be some uneasiness about their choice being taken away.

No matter what this will be interesting to watch play out, but to me it looks like the smaller software companies are going to step up and truly drive innovation for the industry.
January 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMatt Radel
Our organization signed with Convio (Common Ground) for the first time DAYS before the announcement. I was one of the leads on the decision-making process, and one of my sales points to the team was that it was NOT Blackbaud. I was on the client announcement conference call, and brought up my concern: pricing changes. For those of us who remember what e-tapestry's pricing structure was like PRE-merger and POST-merger (or who know how Raisers Edge is priced out) it's a scary scenario. BB was clearly after SaaS for mid-high level users, and Convio was the obvious player to acquire, given their product mix. AND I think BB was after the Austin dev team as much as the income stream, cients, and product mix. I doubt we'll lose utiility. I think we'll see costs increase, despite the initial announcement that the Convio president is taking "most" of his exec team with him to BB.
January 19, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterstuart scadron-wattles
Consolidation is real world. The neat thing about the tech sector is that the barriers to entry are low so there are new alternatives with fresh approaches addressing the drawbacks of the of the legacy products. Check us out!
January 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMario Coryell
While the development costs may be somewhat high, this merger strengthens my belief that it is best to go open source. Start with something like a Drupal/CiviCRM system and have it grow with your organization. There are plenty of developers out there and there is competition among them. When a developer moves on, there are plenty more to take their place.
January 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJD
Due to existing relationships with both of these vendors, I am going to stay anonymous for this comment for now.

Our large nonprofit is currently a customer of both these companies. We have been a Blackbaud customer for many years, and have appreciate and enjoyed their tools, but it has been incredibly expensive. They also do not have a mature financial suite capable of supporting a large global organization, and their fund raising products are a lot like Microsoft office -- very burdened with so many features you will never learn or use them all well.

Convio on the other hand, has been a horrible experience akin to wrestling with an elephant that eats money, and drags you along at a pace that works for their own needs. Bug ridden tools that cost an arm and a leg are what they are getting away with. Worst SAAS experience I have had in 25 years experience in the nonprofit world.

The combination of these two horrifies me, and looks to me like it will only serve the wealthiest organizations, and even then will not have long term relationships.

Sorry for being so critical here, but my goodness, what a nightmare brewing .... We are actively seeking to move all our services away from these organizations for different reasons. Blackbaud for a lack of global support, COnvio for lack of ....., any support.
January 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNonprofit guy
nonprofit guy: please contact me offline. I'd love to hear how Convio did not serve your needs, and the bugs you encountered.
January 19, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterstuart scadron-wattles
As someone who worked at Convio for 4 years this came as a complete shock. For me the culture of both orgs seems very different (one that was open and one that was not) and bringing together people from both sides and having them pull in the same direction will be a huge challenge. There are a lot of questions around product, roadmap, support, R & D and integration. They obviously can't support and invest in everything.

I've heard some people say great that it will mean better integration between Convio and RE. Don't get too excited. People said the same thing when Kintera was acquired, and that integration is not exactly made in heaven. Even BB's Netcommunity to RE is nothing to write home about.

Some of the challenges, software vendors and non profits have to deal with is that BB has a huge budget for marketing and sales. Non profits need to continue to do their due dilligence, there are many good alternatives and options including the companies listed above plus Advanced Solutions International www.advsol.com. Having a proven software selection process in place will only help NP’s make the right decision. ASI has a good webinar coming up on this topic…https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/745848706


January 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBrian O' Donnell
I've used both Raiser's Edge and the Convio suite for 4 years now, and they are both extremely mediocre products. The fact is that there isn't enough meaningful competition in this space to produce any worthwhile products, and this will only worsen that trend.

For those of you thinking this will bring some sort of magical integration, you're living in a fantasy land. Ever experienced the 'integration' between Convio CMS and Convio Online Marketing? It may as well be non-existent. What about the 'integration' between Raiser's Edge and ResearchPoint? Laughable. If there was little incentive for either company to integrate products they already owned, why would the merger cause that, in any way, to change?

In no way is this good for the non-profit world.
January 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSkeptical
I agree with Matt Radel, AJ, and other commenters. The merger of Blackbaud/Convio doesn't mean mass takeover of the market with only mega giants Salsa Labs or Blue State Digital left to challenge...

There are plenty of outstanding eAdvocacy startups on the rise that do a better job with social media outreach than Blackbaud/Convio, and at reasonable rates.

Capitol Momentum (at Advocate Interactive) does a fantastic job for nonprofits with Twitter and Facebook mobilization and action alerts. In fact, they're better at it than their competitors and offer better pricing.
January 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterStacy
check out StratusLIVE for Fundraisers - built on MS Dynamics CRM 2011 w/7x core modules...Outlook native integration, social networking People Pane, it is a dream for non-profits. "www.stratuslive.com"
January 24, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermjcrynp
Yesterday, NTEN held a Community Call to talk about the acquisition and had some great discussion, heard various perspectives, and much more. If anyone wants to access the recording, you can do so for free at:
January 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAmy Sample Ward
Whatever you do -- stay far,far away from Convio. The worst vendor experience I have ever had. I couldn't agree more with the person above who stated:

"Convio on the other hand, has been a horrible experience akin to wrestling with an elephant that eats money, and drags you along at a pace that works for their own needs. Bug ridden tools that cost an arm and a leg are what they are getting away with. Worst SAAS experience I have had in 25 years experience in the nonprofit world."

Awful, horrible, costly experience!
August 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBrian Birch
>> It would be the nonprofit world's dream to see Raisers Edge seamlessly integrate with Convio

This has been done. If you'll forgive the shilling, ImportOmatic from Omatic Software was built to integrate the Raiser's Edge with nearly any other system. 750+ organizations use it to integrate with systems ranging from Blue State Digital, Banner, JustGiving, PetPoint, RuffaloCody/CampusCall, Volgistics, or Convio to Sphere (yes, Sphere). It does a bang-up job with event registrations, membership renewals, and lockbox data as well. The nonprofit world is going to have to come up with something else to dream about, because great integration into RE7 is no longer a dream, it's real:

But please don't take my word, see what our clients are saying on LinkedIn: http://is.gd/7PzM9i or on the Blackbaud forums: http://forums.blackbaud.com/forums/t/18361.aspx

We hope to hear from you !
December 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJeffrey Montgomery

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
All HTML will be escaped. Hyperlinks will be created for URLs automatically.