So as you've likely heard by now, Blackbaud has plans to aquire Convio. As two of only a handful of big companies in the nonprofit technology space, this is big news. But what does it mean? There's been a lot of concern and speculation.
Peter Campbell, an Idealware blogger and board member, said: "It seems to me that if I'm looking for an eCRM or DonorDB for a mid-sized org that can't afford to gamble its fundraising system on some clever startup, I have a range of products to choose from, but I'll be sending the RFPs all in one envelope to the same address. Am I wrong about that?"
Gavin Clabaugh said: "It seems a perennial truth that, after the nuptials, merged companies kill the decent products, roll out the crap, and try to tell you that you're all the better for it. One need only look at the undead things called "Computer Associates" or "Symantec" to see the hideous results of such a zombie wedding... Perhaps this won't happen here... Who knows, Blackbaud might just be the better for it, and perhaps their customers will be too... I doubt it, but who knows. They might be the rare exception that proofs the rule."
At Idealware, our job isn't to try to predict the future, but to do impartial research. So for us, it's too early to have specific data. But there's one related piece of research I'd love to do if I had unlimited time and money: Does it help or hurt the nonprofit sector to have big vendors making real money?
This aquisition makes it clear that the financial market cares about what's going on, at least somewhat, with nonprofit software. Is this good or bad for nonprofits? I could see the data lining up either way. I think the nonprofit sector is quick to judge that bigger companies with more financial motives are likely to do worse things, and maybe Blackbaud will -- but they'll also have more revenue with which to try new things, or the ability to support one product (like something for small nonprofits) that doesn't sustain itself with revenue from a product that does.
And it's definitely good news for nonprofits that it's possible to make a living creating software for nonprofits -- after all, we'd have fewer software choices if no one could support themselves creating them. So to my mind, however this aquisition turns out, it's an indicator about something good in the marketplace itself, which is that solid vendors can make enough money from nonprofits to create viable products.
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