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Blackbaud CRM™ General Ledger: Best Friends Animal Society’s Data-Driven Account Structure

Are you considering implementing a CRM solution, or re-implementing during an upgrade? With an implementation comes the opportunity to rethink decisions about how your data is captured, structured, and leveraged throughout the system.

Best Friends Animal Society, a leading national animal welfare organization, did just that, opting to re-implement during an upgrade from Blackbaud CRM™ 3.0 to version 4.0, known internally as HERO. With the re-implementation came opportunities to completely re-engineer their revenue structures, in order to better support their financial systems and reporting. The concept of using Blackbaud CRM™ as a true sub-ledger is popular, but in order to actually accomplish this, Best Friends decided to undertake a full revenue conversion, including adding a newly designed Fundraising Hierarchy and Appeal structure.

“Our goal was to provide better access to data for Development, improve the accuracy of the input data, and provide a true sub-ledger with ease of import for our General Ledger. With a lot of help (from BrightVine), outside the box ideas, and a lot of hard work we were able to accomplish that in a reasonable time frame.” Art Brainerd, Controller, Best Friends Animal Society

Reverse Engineering

Best Friends’ financial system was already in place at the time of the CRM upgrade, so why not start with what you know: the account structure and account numbers in the General Ledger system. Understanding what the account numbers represent in the financial system helped to define the GL Account System in CRM.

Rebuild to Derive Account Strings

Best Friends and BrightVine reviewed the structures surrounding Revenue in order to drive the new GL Account strings. Using the system to capture these data elements as they go, Best Friends is able to derive their GL distribution schema from elements already in the system. This helps them avoid data manipulation outside of the system, to move money from account to account, and aligns the data captured in HERO with the way they manage financial accounting.

The GL Account System redesign aligns HERO data to the rolled-up reporting done within the financial accounting systems. For example, distribution of revenue in their Ledger includes a reference to the Project budget, as well as a reference to the team or Department credited with the gift. In HERO, these data points are captured on the revenue transaction upon gift entry: the Fundraising Purpose represents the Project to be funded, and the Designation represents the credited Department. With this in mind, Best Friends is able to derive their GL Account strings from the characteristics of the revenue transaction, as recorded during gift entry. Further, any change to these attributes will trigger a GL distribution change automatically.

Reconvert to Support Accounting

The revenue re-conversion project was intended to establish reporting out of HERO that provides a relatable detail view of the accounting systems; essentially a true sub-ledger.

  • Best Friends, with the help of BrightVine, completely redesigned the Fundraising Hierarchy, moving from a flat structure to a nested hierarchy.

  • Allows for roll-up reporting without data manipulation

  • Offers tracking from the Project fund perspective, as well as the Department perspective

  • Supports financial accounting with drill-down actuals

  • BrightVine and Best Friends re-engineered code tables on the Designation, Fundraising Purpose, Appeal, and Revenue records

  • Facilitates reporting by providing consistent parameters for selecting and filtering data

  • Supports financial accounting by providing categorical details within rolled-up reports

  • BrightVine converted Best Friends' proprietary, outdated Source Codes to Appeals

  • Broadens their ability to capture details about the solicitations and incoming gifts

  • Translates their evolving Source Code structure and inconsistent data entry into categorical, consistent data elements with HERO


After your initial implementation of Blackbaud CRM™, it may seem impossible to consider another data conversion, or rethink some of the decisions made during initial design. More often than not, we hear that the experience of using the system for a couple of years helps to reshape data management practices, and avoid workarounds.

Best Friends Animal Society is a great example of an investment of effort and careful consideration now, that will support their system use and financial accounting for the long-term. The results after conversion are extensible as Best Friends continues to grow, and processes and structures are now in place to facilitate consistent data capture for the duration.

BrightVine was thrilled to have been a part of this project, and we are happy to share their success story. If you and your organization are reconsidering your use of Blackbaud CRM™, contact BrightVine Consulting for insight, and functional and technical support.

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