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Blackbaud Direct Marketing™ Planner Pros & Cons

After training via Skype™ with Stephen Mally, in Australia, I was sent to visit my first direct marketing client. System design had started a few weeks earlier and I was there to help them navigate through the complexities of Marketing and Communications, starting with the Marketing Planner. I thought, “What a great way to store information. I wish we had a similar tool when I was a fundraiser!” Spending the evening in my hotel room “practicing” for my visit - I had a good handle on the tool, but the Planner didn’t seem to be working properly.

Nothing I tried would make the data in the Planner populate the Marketing Effort and none of the Marketing Effort data was coming back over into the Planner. At 2 a.m. I decided it was “operator error” and decided to send my Australian colleague an email. Imagine my surprise when he said, “Oh, the Planner and the Efforts don’t integrate.” Uh-oh. That’s a problem, I thought.

So, over the years, I would give clients a brief overview of the Planner and the option to use it if they wanted to. In almost every case, clients rejected the Planner because it was too much work with little reward. Recently, however, I was engaged by a client who is using the Planner, causing me to rethink my “Anti-Planner” stance. To help your organization decide if the Planner is right for you, here are some things to consider:


  • The Planner is a great way to chart your marketing efforts over the course of a specific time frame. I recommend using a 3 Level Plan Template (see example below):

  • Name of Plan: 2016-2017 Annual Fund Plan

  • Appeal: FY2017 Annual Fund Appeal

  • Planned Marketing Efforts (i.e. Fall Acquistion, Fall Renewal, Spring Acquisition, etc)

  • Any Assumptions/Allocations will roll up across the Planned Efforts, Planned Appeals and Plan.

  • The Planner is a great way to store expenses for your Marketing Effort Creatives,

  • Tasks can be added at the Appeal level and Plan level. Note: Direct Marketing Efforts do not have a task tab so if you need to assign tasks, consider using the Planner.

  • The Planner is a great repository for budget information, revenue assumptions, response rates, etc.

  • Plan Activities appear on the Plan Calendar allowing users to see the full scope of Planned Efforts.

  • Information on Segmentation and Packages can be included. Package information will transfer to the Marketing Effort but the Segments will need to be built in the Effort itself


  • While the Planner stores a great deal of useful information, very little is transferred to a Marketing Effort, even if you create the effort from the Planner, including:

  • Assumptions/Allocations

  • Budget Information

  • Expenses - Expenses only appear at the Plan Level in the Planner, not for specific marketing efforts

  • Segments (the Segments in the Planner create a “holding spot” in the Effort, but you still have to Add Segments into the Effort).

  • Appeal Information (Note: you create a Planned Appeal in the Planner, but you need to recreate the Appeal for the Effort).

  • A Plan must be Approved in order for it to appear in the Planned Efforts tab on the Direct Marketing page

  • When the Marketing Effort is activated and Revenue is added, the numbers in the Planner do not update.

  • Any updates to the information in the Planner must be done manually.

Given the challenges noted above, why the change in my thought process? My current client has a key business need to track all of their Annual Marketing Efforts and tasks in one place. They also developed a customization to "push" data back and forth between the Planner and Marketing Efforts because it’s not possible to accomplish with standard functionality. They are happy with the outcome because the Planner is a very robust tool for centrally storing Plans and tasks. Depending on your organization’s ability to develop customizations, it may be worth investigating this option.

There are other options. Many clients rely heavily on the functionality of the Marketing Effort itself for reporting on Budget, Expenses, Segment performance, ROI, goals etc. and the Revenue information can be refreshed anytime for reporting. The Appeal Performance Report and Appeal Package report are excellent standard reports as well.

Weigh the pros and cons for your organization. You do have choices for the Planner and other areas of BBDM. For further information on Direct Marketing, contact our BrightVine team.

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