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Blackbaud CRM™ Appeals, Appeal Mailings, and Marketing Efforts Oh My

Whether you’re a former Raiser’s Edge™ (RE) user converting to Blackbaud CRM™ (CRM) or a current Blackbaud CRM™ user, the concept of “Appeals” can be complex and confusing. Do I use an Appeal Mailing? Do I use a Marketing Effort? Do I use both?

Examining the way your organization needs to use Appeals is key to making these decisions. Appeals are one of the best features in Blackbaud CRM™ because they allow you to track the performance of your solicitations. Here are some recommendations that should help you navigate through the decision-making process.


Let’s look at Raiser’s Edge™ Appeals first. Appeals in RE tend to be very specific (celebrity auction, walk-a-thon, year end appeal, etc.) with a campaign and package associated.

In Blackbaud CRM™, however, packages are assigned to a Marketing Effort, Appeal Mailing or Event for performance reporting. When setting up Appeals in Blackbaud CRM™, we recommend that you use the following hierarchy:

Appeal Category--->Appeals--->Marketing Effort/Appeal Mailing/Events.

To use an Annual Fund example, the Appeal Category would be Annual Fund, The Appeal would be 2016 Annual Fund and any Marketing Efforts, Appeal Mailings or Events associated with the Annual Fund would roll up into both the Appeal and the Appeal Category for reporting purposes. This allows you to report on Appeals across years using the category and more specific reporting for an Appeal for a given year with Appeals. I always tell my clients that the Appeal Performance Report in Blackbaud CRM™ is one of the most useful of all of the standard reports because it allows you to “slice and dice” your data across Appeal years, Appeals and mailings/emails, if the structure is built correctly.

The single major difference between Appeals in RE and CRM is that Blackbaud CRM™ provides no “global change” function to add Appeals the way RE allows. You cannot add Appeals in bulk via batch without a custom batch. Appeals are added to a constituent’s Communications record in one of three ways: manually, on a one-off basis on the Communications record, using an Appeal Mailing or building a Marketing Effort.

Appeal Mailings vs. Marketing Efforts in CRM

In the early years of Blackbaud CRM™, Appeal Mailings did not exist. If an organization wanted to add Appeals in bulk for solicitations, a Marketing Effort was a necessary and multi-step process. With the addition of Appeal Mailings to the software, organizations are now able to build a “mini-Marketing Effort” with one selection of constituents and no segmentation. Other important features of a Marketing Effort are included as well - finder numbers, exclusions, packages, address/name format processing, letter templates and export definitions. Appeal Mailings quickly became an easier way for many organizations to manage adding Appeals, as long as complex segmentation was not a requirement. Also, like Marketing Efforts, Appeal Mailings can be copied for similar solicitations to further streamline the process.

For those organizations with much more complex direct marketing needs, a Marketing Effort is essential. A Marketing Effort has a Source Code. A Marketing Effort allows you to build multiple segments with multiple packages, seeds and ask ladders for robust reporting at the segment level. Address and Name format processing options can be assigned at the segment level as well as Assumptions, like response rate, and sample size for organizations that use test segments. If your organization rents or purchases outside lists, a Marketing Effort provides Acquisition list functionality. Do you use an outside vendor to segment your data for you? Segmented house files are an excellent way to bring the segmented data back into your marketing effort.

Decisions, Decisions…

Based on the above information, the decision seems like a no brainer. If you need to add an Appeal to a single constituent’s Communications record, add it directly to the record. If you need to add Appeals to a group of “like” constituents, use an Appeal Mailing. If you need to add Appeals based on a segmented population, use a Marketing Effort. Easy, right? But here’s what I’ve encountered with clients over the years...the Source Code reporting is very important and Appeal Mailings do not have a Source Code. Many organizations use the Source Code Performance Report because it’s a great resource to compare data between different Source Code parts, such as segments and channels. To use a Higher Ed example, let’s say you have a segment of business school graduates that you’ve been tracking through various Marketing Efforts over the course of a fiscal year. You decide you want to send a mailing to business grads only, so no segmentation is necessary and you decide to use an Appeal Mailing instead. The Appeal Mailing doesn’t have a source code so you can only compare performance across the Appeal, not the segment. You’ve lost that reporting functionality. What do you do?

Easy answer… build a Marketing Effort with one segment for the business school and abandon the Appeal Mailing idea. You will have a Source Code and can then feed those segment results into any other efforts you’ve built for the year, ensuring consistency for reporting. Many clients do this. Because they are so accustomed to building Marketing Efforts, it’s easier for them to quickly build a one segment Marketing Effort than switch over to an Appeal Mailing. Many organizations with a centralized Marketing Effort area ignore Appeal Mailings altogether. It’s simpler for them to build a pared-down version.

Assessing your business use cases is essential to making these decisions. What are your reporting needs? Are your mailings centralized or are there many end users with different degrees of expertise sending solicitations? All of these factors are key when deciding the best design for you. If you’d like to know more about how BrightVine Consulting can assist your organization with these decisions, please contact us.

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