Created on Thursday, 07 February 2008 13:26
Written by Pam Baker, Contributing Editor
Convio is capitalizing on two hot trends in the nonprofit universe: SaaS and Web 2.0 social networking.
In 1999, Vinay Bhagat volunteered at a local public broadcasting station and soon found himself passing written messages when people called in. The quickly jotted notes contained little information about the donors and that troubled Bhagat. Shortly thereafter, he quit his job at a software company and conducted more than 1,000 interviews with nonprofit executives to learn about how they raise money, drive advocacy and communicate with constituents. Based on that research Convio delivered its first online constituent relationship management products in July 2000. From there, Convio has continued to build its line of products and reshape its business model.
“We are taking a leadership role in several trends that are helping change the nonprofit technology market,” says Convio’s CEO, Gene Austin.
First, Convio touts its Software as a Service (SaaS) or ‘on-demand’ model. SaaS has become the de facto standard based on the lower costs, ease-of-deployment and the simplicity it offers over the old client server model. Convio products leverage that trend.
“Overtime we are seeing more and more organizations transition to this model through offerings like ours, Salesforce and other on-demand applications and platforms,” says Austin. “The innovation and integration around this model and proven platforms such as Convio are proving to be a more cost-efficient delivery model for nonprofits.”
“Use of the Internet to build constituent relationships, what we call online constituent relationship management or eCRM, is proving more and more successful each year,” he adds.
Online channels continue to grow in terms of funds raised, action alerts delivered, house file growth and other relationship management metrics.
“We are also seeing multi-channel success as Convio and our network of partners work with clients to integrate offline and online channels to drive support and engagement. The results that clients are experiencing are exciting,” says Austin.
Convio is also aggressively tapping the Web 2.0, or social networking, trend through its Convio Open Initiative.
“Through our Convio Open Initiative, we are helping nonprofits tap into the power of the new Web with tools to leverage social networking sites, online calendars, photo sharing, viral video, and mapping mashups,” he explains.
To provide a more compelling constituent experience, Convio offers tools for rich Web applications and integration options to more effectively manage constituent data.
The three pronged approach offers:
• Convio APIs that allow organizations to develop separate, custom-built applications that integrate with the Convio solution;
• Convio Database Connectors that help integrate the nonprofits online interactions with their donor management system;
• Convio Extensions to reach what Convio is calling the ‘un-tethered constituent.’ Extensions allow nonprofits to take advantage of the rapid increase and adoption of social media sites to reach new and existing supporters through applications such as Facebook, MySpace, and others.
The list of nonprofits using Convio includes some of the nation’s most respected groups from the American Diabetes Association and Autism Society of America to Carnegie Museums and the Center for Responsible Lending.
The Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI) Foundation (http://www.oif.org/) uses Convio to empower its constituents online. Last year it increased its online donations by 65 percent, primarily through its signature Bone China Tea virtual fundraising event.
In 2007, 49 volunteers hosted virtual tea parties from January through April, raising nearly $42,000 from 778 individuals friends, family members and co-workers who were invited to "stay at home and have a quiet cup of tea" while contributing the money they might have spent on new clothes, babysitters, transportation, and other expenses associated with a formal tea directly to the OI Foundation.
“As a small staff of eight, we rely on Convio to help us increase our outreach by making it easy for our staff and volunteers. We have been so pleased with the results of these TeamRaiser-powered events, that we plan to hold the Bone China Tea fundraisers year-round, and expect to double the number of participants from 49 to 100 in 2008," said O'Brien.
The OI Foundation receives more than 6,000 questions each year from parents seeking information about medical treatments for their children, or adults with OI who have questions about issues such as aging, hearing loss, pregnancy, or respiratory disease. The funds raised from the Bone China Tea campaign support the OI Foundation's research and education initiatives.
“On a final note, our client community continues to grow and connect with one another like never before. We’re committed to not only providing an exceptional client experience and partner eco-system, but providing new and better ways to work together and challenge one another to build success and strengthen the nonprofit community,” says Austin.