2014 was an exciting year of achievements for Blackbaud. First they celebrated their 10th anniversary with NASDAQ as a publicly traded company with more than 30 years in business developing software and services for nonprofits. Then they announced strong Q2 earnings before getting named one of the 2014 Best Places to Work in South Carolina. It’s clear that the company is gaining significant momentum in the nonprofit marketplace while helping Charleston further elevate its Silicon Harbor status.
Silicon Harbor Magazine sat down with Blackbaud’s Senior Vice President of Corporate Marketing, Catherine Cook LaCour – a Charleston native and College of Charleston graduate – to discuss the company’s role in enhancing Charleston’s position as Silicon Harbor from job creation to local philanthropy and more.
How will Blackbaud continue to help Charleston take it to a higher level?
As one of the best places to work in South Carolina, the first step is job creation says LaCour. “Blackbaud is in a really exciting growth phase. We’re hiring not only in Charleston, but also across all our locations around the world. When you talk about technology careers, people immediately think of engineers, but companies like Blackbaud need all the supporting teams around that engineer like marketing, finance, and customer support. As a result, there’s exciting growth in terms of the type of employees we’re looking for at Blackbaud, and you’ll see that boost the job market in Charleston.”
What makes Blackbaud unique from other tech companies is its focus on the non-profit sector. In early 2014, Blackbaud employees brought school lessons to life by hosting 20 fifth graders from the Charleston Promise Neighborhood Learning Community for a two-day product development program called Camp Blackbaud to introduce them to the world of software engineering.
”Blackbaud is committed to building that next generation of technology lovers who want to be engineers and software developers. Bringing in underprivileged students and teaching them how to build applications and innovate the Blackbaud way is just one of the ways we give back to the community. It’s so exciting to watch these kids find inspiration, and it makes me smile to know that they could actually be Blackbaud employees of the future.”
LaCour says the company will continue to grow its local philanthropic efforts in the community. “The DNA of this company is philanthropy. Our customers are nonprofits. Over 80 percent of our employees volunteer, and we have over 1,000 employees located in Charleston. We take corporate social responsibility very seriously.”
Blackbaud is constantly innovating with its products and services, and will continue making investments to bring top talent to continue to innovate around quality says LaCour. “Our CEO, Mike Gianoni, has empowered a real, renewed focus on innovation, quality and delivering an outstanding customer experience. You’re seeing that not only in our announcements and results, but in the investments being made. For example, we’ve hired Senior Vice President of Operations, Steve Halleck, who is an expert overseeing quality assurance and operational excellence. We also hired Executive Vice President of Research, Delivery and Operations, Kevin McDearis, to head up global product development. Kevin was nominated as 2014 Georgia CIO of the year before joining Blackbaud and has a track record of impressive customer-focused innovation, so we’re confident great things are in store for customers as we look ahead.”
Blackbaud announced plans for Raiser’s Edge NXT and Financial Edge NXT, which will be available to customers in late spring and summer 2015. The highly anticipated fundraising and relationship management, and accounting solutions, which were announced at Blackbaud’s 15th annual bbcon conference, will offer an advanced, nonprofit-exclusive experience in the cloud.
The company also released Blackbaud CRM 4.0, offering customers rich developments in the areas of usability, quality, performance and innovation. Blackbaud CRM is a comprehensive, customizable fundraising and constituent relationship management (CRM) solution designed for enterprise-level nonprofits seeking a powerful, yet adaptable solution for fundraising, marketing and program management across the engagement lifecycle.
LaCour says, “At Blackbaud, we tell customers their passion is our purpose. We’re committed to producing solutions and services that not only help nonprofits do their job, but do them better. Helping them become more efficient means, for example, helping our customers feed more hungry children, save more whales, or help more people beat cancer, a heart condition, or ALS. What we’re doing here in partnership with our customers is really powerful.”
What will it take for Charleston’s tech community to bring Silicon Harbor to the next level?
“When we talk about recruitment, we have to build the brand both for opportunities that are here and for Charleston itself. We can’t recruit somebody to Blackbaud if they don’t know who Blackbaud is…or Boeing, Boomtown or Benefitfocus. All high-growth companies in the community have the responsibility of elevating their brands beyond Charleston. For example, how are we marketing ourselves in the technology hubs? And are technology companies and the city of Charleston partnering to create awareness in the education sector? How do we tell students “if you’re interested in a technology career and are coming out of MIT or Stanford, you don’t have to stay in San Francisco or Boston. You can come to Charleston and have a very high-trajectory technology career and spend your weekends on the beach”. As a community, that concept is something we all can come together on. Channels like Silicon Harbor Magazine offer great platforms to let people know that there is a rapidly growing center of technology here–and to get them excited about it.”
What does this Charleston native have to say about the opportunities to build a successful career in tech right here in the Lowcountry?
“I think it is easier to make a career here in Charleston than it has ever been. With the growth we’re experiencing in Silicon Harbor, it’s only going to get better for talented job-seekers. Not only are there jobs open, there are also a variety to choose from. Charleston is a place to make a great career now, and I think I’m a perfect example. I left to go earn my MBA, traveled abroad to develop my skills and was given an amazing opportunity to come back to lead at this incredible company. When the opportunity presented itself, I jumped at the chance to move back to Charleston. I haven’t looked back since.”