Saturday, November 04, 2006


Development and Finance: A Broken Marriage?
by pam ashlund

This article is the start of a conversation on classic rifts that exist in nonprofit organizations.

Today I'm blogging about the odd way that conflicts in Blackbaud's software products mirror departmental and emotional conflicts.

Development and Finance - One department brings in the money ("develops" the funds) and the other counts the money. You'd think that would be a marriage made in heaven...but for some reason...not so much.

This was evident, on two levels, at Blackbaud's 2006 Conference for Nonprofits.

First, and most fundamental, at the software level:

I attended the session on integrating two software products (Blackbaud's fundraising product the "Raisers Edge" and its accounting product "Financial Edge"). You'd have to figure that two products from the same company would already be integrated (and certainly not require a class), anymore than one would think you'd have to "integrate" accounts payable and payroll with the general ledger.

The problem originates in the history of the software's development. The Raisers Edge was developed first and established market dominance in the Fundraising arena. I first heard it described as the "Cadillac" of fundraising software.

The Financial Edge, on the other hand, was born as "Accounting for Nonprofits" with a smaller client base and later reborn as the "Financial Edge" to coordinate with the Raisers Edge. The two products (RE and FE) were sold separately (and presumably to different target markets).

Second, the emotional level:

I noticed (and the workshop trainers joked and commented on this phenomena often) the sheer intensity of the animosity between the accounting people and the fundraising/ development people. “What does the accounting department need to know about our appeals?” one attendee spit out with obvious venom.

Obviously we need a conversation (at a higher level (public) and an organizational level (private)). But I have to ask: can we have this conversation? And what could we do to make that productive?

To be continued...

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1 comment:

janet said...

Heres a question: are you surprised to know my first thought upon reading this was "what is surprising about this?" The development process has always been accepted as a black box, whereas accounting is supposed to be transparent. Talk about cultural divides...
The fact is that the CA Nonprofit Accountability Act of 2004, created in a post-Enron frenzy to clean up accounting loopholes devotes vastly more space to requiring transparency in development accounting and accountability than in any other aspect of nonprofit financial management. Frankly if this doesn't explain why the prickly response of the development people in the Blackbaud seminar made me wonder what they were hiding, I can't imagine what does.