Partner Post

Best of breed versus single vendor suite: A debate no more.

Deciding whether or not to adopt a single vendor suite or utilize best-of-breed applications has been one of the most common debates amongst nonprofits when discussing technology. The story was if you didn’t buy from a single vendor, integration would either be impossible or prohibitively expensive translating into hours of duplicate data entry and reconciliation between systems. But, now thanks to cloud and advanced integration technology, there is no debate! The winner is…Best of Breed!

Having to integrate external applications with a nonprofit’s fundraising CRM solution can be a very scary and intimidating challenge that some avoid at all costs. However, now more than ever, advanced integration technology has made the case financially and operationally feasible for nonprofits to pick the BEST applications for their unique needs. Today, a nonprofit can pick and choose software from many different vendors, integrate them with proven integration tools, like ImportOmatic® for Raiser’s Edge, and have the suite they always wanted in just weeks! Nonprofits no longer need to sacrifice functionality for the sake of integration. You really can have it all!

With best-of-breed apps, nonprofits can be more nimble and responsive with their technology. When new functionality is needed, integration is no longer a restraint. This is true even with connecting an application in the cloud with an on-premise system such as Raiser’s Edge. This allows for nonprofits to quickly respond to market changes, new donor needs, or even a natural disaster. For nonprofits that desire choice, flexibility, and freedom to create their own suite that fits them, it’s a good time to be in the market for nonprofit technology.

At Omatic it’s been our mission to help nonprofits become more efficient across the board, particularly those organizations using Raiser’s Edge in combination with any other great software solutions. Advanced and flexible integration is what we’ve been doing for years. Our solution, ImportOmatic has always provided an effective way to integrate data in Raiser’s Edge, and now we’re taking it a step further with ImportOmatic 3.0. Whether you want to approve every change or set up a scheduled nightly import, ImportOmatic redefines “efficient” with baked-in intelligence that delivers clean data, smart profiles for tailored processing, and new connectors that make Raiser’s Edge talk directly with your other systems. Oh, and if you want data to go both ways, no problem. With ImportOmatic 3.0 we’ve got that covered as well. We truly want nonprofits to spend less time manipulating data and more time leveraging it.

Now that you are ready to start using those best-of-breed apps you’ve had your eye on, we want you to be prepared. Below are five must-ask questions to prepare for data integration with your fundraising CRM system.

  1. How, when, and why should you integrate?

The “why” is pretty straightforward. If you want a complete picture of the relationship a donor or prospect has with your organization, you need to integrate your data. The “when” and “how” are more subjective and will vary from organization to organization. For smaller organizations, you’re looking at more of a complete data integration process where the data from those external systems feeds into your CRM system on a regular basis. You may even be looking for something bi-directional where updates to your CRM database are pushed out to the other databases to ensure updated, accurate data across the board.

  1. What’s your primary database?

Whenever you’re looking to integrate data from multiple sources it’s important to determine which will be considered the primary source of data for your organization. For example, many educational organizations will use their student information system as the database of record for the registrar’s office, but they will use their donor management system as the database of record for the fundraising and alumni services offices. If the organization as a whole needs to have multiple databases of record, at a minimum, you’ll need to determine which one of the databases will be the master for specific record types or data types.

  1. How are we going to link these two systems together?

Depending on how much data you have living in multiple databases, you may decide to integrate your data in an automated fashion. If you use Raiser’s Edge you could integrate via ImportOmatic. In these instances, it is crucial to create some sort of unique link between a record in one system and the same record in another system. There are several ways to do this, but most of them involve tracking the unique ID assigned by one system somewhere on the constituent’s record in the other systems. The specific method you use to link the two systems truly depends on how you plan to integrate the data.

  1. Do you need to set policies around record ownership?

In larger organizations it’s important to establish guidelines around record ownership and communication to ensure we’re not sending our constituent mixed messages or even worse, overwhelming them with duplicate communication. For example, if the events team reaches out to a donor, then we don’t want the annual giving team reaching out to them at the same time.

  1. Who has the better data?

If you’re importing data from one data source to another, it’s important to know which database has more accurate or up-to-date data. You don’t want to overwrite good data that you have worked hard to keep clean and accurate in your fundraising CRM system with messy data that may have been entered by a temp or may have even been ‘guesstimated’ (i.e. setting a Title = Ms. when the record is a female).

So don’t be afraid to go with the best business application to solve your unique challenges just because it’s outside of your main fundraising CRM solution. Advanced integration technology is on your side!

Omatic Software is the award-winning company helping nonprofits advance their fundraising and database management. We integrate, extend, and optimize software and processes for nonprofits from all over the world! Omatic is proud to be a lively team of ambitious individuals, a Microsoft Certified Partner, a Blackbaud Technology Partner, and work with thousands of nonprofits driven by purposes larger than our own. Check us out at or contact us at [email protected] or 888-662-8426.

About the author: Caroline is a Senior Marketing Strategist for Omatic Software where she is responsible for the planning, development, and execution of Omatic’s marketing strategy, marketing campaigns, and public relations. Prior to joining Omatic, Caroline held several roles in her 10 years at Blackbaud including Product Manager, Product Marketing Manager, Vertical Marketing Manager, and Channel Marketing Manager. Caroline holds an International MBA from the University of South Carolina and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota with a major in Journalism and Mass Communications.

  • Hossein Noshirvani

    For full disclosure, I am one of the founders of CharityEngine. As far as we know we are one of the only nonprofit specific vendor that is a true single database solution that brings together CRM, eCRM, Events, payments, Email, Direct Mail, Advocacy, and P2P. So my position is generally best practices vs. best of breed but I also don’t believe that there is never a blanket rule.

    I think, like me, you should also disclose early in your post that you also worked at Blackbaud and that you might MIGHT have some conflicts of interest.

    That said, anytime someone makes an absolute statement . . .”winner is” you have to take it with a grain of salt.

    1. This assumes that all the best of breed solutions you pick can work seemlessly with ImportOmatic and maintain database integrity. Smaller technology companies often times struggle with this.
    2. Assumes that ImportOmatic works perfectly which it doesn’t. And when it breaks have you accounted for the time and the expense.
    3. What if you have 3 or 4 or 5 systems. A typical large nonprofit might have as many as 9 systems.
    4. Since Major Gifts Officers often live in their own world aka Outlook, how does one get that data/communication into the database of record with ImportOmatic?
    5. Regarding better data, I would like to know HOW, with detail, you propose which database has better data? I suspect the HOW has a cost associated with it that needs to be accounted for in the ROI/TCO analysis.
    6. I agree 100% that whether you have a best practices or best of breed solution you need to have a data management policy. That said, very few orgs have established these. A lack of a DMP is not nearly as important in a best of breed solution for obvious reasons.
    7. With the continual growth of P2P, does the Omatic tools create relationships?
    8. What data is lost with best of breed solutions?

    My personal believe is that best practices for the majority of functionality is the right solution from a data, time and cost side. I also believe that for orgs that have a heavy reliance on a single function, that going to a best of breed for that piece is worthwhile. However I also believe that having the best of breed of everything will lead to the best of nothing.


    President & co-founder of CharityEngine