How One Multi-Chapter Organization is Succeeding with Virtual Accounts

Mark Davis - 06.03.2009

I recently had the pleasure of presenting with Sarah Hall, the Online Giving Specialist from Canadian Cancer Society BC & Yukon Division (CSS) about their success using Blackbaud Sphere for multi-chapter event fundraising. Sarah “Kintera” as she is affectionately known in the office, co-presented with me at two conferences this year, the 2009 Target User’s Forum and the 2009 Ottawa Conference for Nonprofits. You can view the full presentation online, or continue reading for a quick summary.

Project Overview

CCS launched Sphere in 2003 to support online fundraising efforts for 38 of their Relay for Life events. At that time, Sphere was exclusively deployed for national organizations with multiple chapters using a multi-tier account structure (see figure 1). Under this structure, division, region, and local chapter accounts were constructed in a hierarchical structure, but each with their own separate accounts. CCS’s Sphere accounts grew to 70 by 2007 as they rapidly expanded their use of the tools. The downside of this growth is that Sarah found the multi-tier structure difficult to manage – as data was spread across 70 separate accounts.




Figure 1 – Multi-tier Account (Separate accounts for parent and children)



In 2007, CCS embarked on a project to migrate their multi-tier account structure to the newly developed virtual account structure (see figure 2). Sarah worked diligently within her organization to get the appropriate regional and local buy-in for the change, as the project entailed collapsing all of the 70 accounts into a single Sphere account. Access to data would be controlled through virtual permission rights versus physical separation. The users had to “agree” to have all of the information merged into a single database, where CSS would have 100% control over regional and local access to the data.




Figure 2 – Virtual Accounts (Data physically together, but logically separated)











Sarah points to the following tangible results following the migration:

  1. Clean Data – During the migration, CSS let Blackbaud de-dupe all of the data in their accounts, removing 150,000 duplicate records.
  2. Raiser’s Edge Integration – CSS is now 100% self sufficient in exporting data from a single account (versus 70 accounts) to Raiser’s Edge.
  3. Reporting – Sarah has personally saved 80 hours annually in creating Key Indicator Reports, while providing these reports more frequently to staff
  4. E-mail Communications – CSS now produces half of the mailings for the local Relay for Life campaigns, cutting down email preparation time for their local event coordinators.
  5. Customer Support – Having all the data in a single account has made it easier for CSS to push down customer support tasks to local users.
  6. New Opportunities – CSS has expanded the use of Sphere to launch their first E-newsletter, deploy online advocacy efforts, and send general online appeals to all event participants and donors (which have generated $35,000 in new revenue).


More About Multi-Chapter Management

Blackbaud Sphere is deployed in over 85 national or multi-chapter organizations using both multi-tier account and virtual account structures. When we work with organizations, we determine the best approach taking into consideration how national works (or sometimes doesn’t work) with their local chapters. Some organizations find the virtual account structure impossible, as the local chapters will NEVER allow national access to their data.


Over the past six months, I have seen a change in heart and several other organizations have since taken advantage of virtual accounts. The primary reason is the organizations’ desire to help local chapters be more successful online by centralizing efforts. Blackbaud has similar experience with direct response, as our Target team has seen organizations centralize their direct mail efforts for many years. I am glad to see that these same groups are starting to view online fundraising and marketing in the same way, as there is a lot that a national organization can do to support their local chapter online efforts.


So I leave you with one important question… Now that Blackbaud has acquired Kintera, which nickname should we give Sarah – as Sarah “Kintera” will no longer work?