What a tool!

by | May 20, 2016

Over the last 4 weeks there’s been a real theme emerging in the conversations I’ve had. Rather than explain the conversations I’m going to ask a question in order to paint a picture.

If I gave you a duster would you be able to clean your whole house: polish everything, clean the toilets, scrub the floors, hoover the carpets, de-grease the windows? How about unclog the gutters, mow the lawn, do the washing up and laundry?

No? You surprise me.

You’d probably ask me for a mop, a hoover, a bucket, sponges, cleaning cloths, washing machine, rubber gloves and so on. Of course you would, and that would be totally reasonable, in fact you’d be justified in believing I’d gone completely mad, asking you to do everything armed only with a duster.

And that brings us neatly on to why so many people I speak to are surprised/frustrated/annoyed that Raiser’s Edge won’t run an entire fundraising programme. And if the depth of their surprise is anything to go by, they’re also expecting it to provide a hearty supply of tea and biscuits.

In truth I can’t make up my mind if this problem stems from overselling the products’ capabilities or genuine naivety on behalf of users. Whilst this attitude is the core problem, the knock on effect is the erosion of how strong a product Raiser’s Edge is, and how well it does what it was designed to do.

A duster dusts exceedingly well. Raiser’s Edge stores fundraising data exceedingly well. A duster is not so good at cleaning your loo. And to be fair, neither is Raiser’s Edge.

Now the nay-sayers out there will probably be expecting me to launch into a diatribe about all of the failings of RE but I’m not because, you see, I like it. Every product, no matter how refined, has things that aren’t quite right and possibly jar a little: my car is a not-so-cheap-German but the slight lag in gear change annoys me. My Sky box hasn’t been able to download a whole box set, even though Netflix have had that technology for ages. You get the gist.

So what is the point that I’m trying to make?

In our day-to-day lives we are used to having a variety of different tools available to us. Within the business context, we usually have Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Outlook, Access at a minimum. We instinctively know which one will do what job, and we have absolutely no issue with having multiple applications at our disposal. So why do we find it so difficult to get our heads around the fact that we may need applications other than Raiser’s Edge to support everything we want to do in fundraising?

I’m on a mission to get my clients understanding that having something in addition to RE is OK and it’s not evidence that, as a product, it isn’t fit for purpose. I appreciate that this is controversial, but I often find that the ‘fit for purpose’ argument comes from users who don’t really know how to use it properly. Over time a collaboration between my team and client users, often brings a much greater understanding of what’s possible, but it can be a hard sell trying to overcome years of prejudice.

For the time being I’ll continue to have these conversations and try and do my best to change opinions, but maybe it’s time for the rest of the charity world to think about what they are asking of Raiser’s Edge and whether their judgement of it as a system and their need for it to do everything is reasonable. After all, we don’t usually use a duster to wash our pants; at least I don’t.

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