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Apr 19, 2019

Blackbaud on the cloud, the digital transformation of IR and its award win

Software firm took home award for best use of technology & social media at the IR Magazine Awards – US 2019

In 2014, 10 years after Blackbaud went public, it went big on its digital journey. Based in its new global headquarters in Charleston, South Carolina, Blackbaud’s director of investor relations Mark Furlong tells IR Magazine about how the company reinvented itself and what the future holds.

How is the company leveraging its use of the cloud?

We have a very tech-savvy executive team across the company that has put best-in-breed cloud products in our back office, and IR is no exception to that. So we’re very fortunate in that we’re fully leveraging the cloud for everything from preparing earnings releases to hitting the road and using our CRM. There’s really no paper in our environment and this helps the CEO, CFO and IROs because they travel quite a bit.

What are the benefits of going paperless?

Our paperless program makes the process of IR fairly seamless, efficient and secure. We don’t have confidential information floating around on paper: we lock it all down with Microsoft Teams. It took a couple of years to get there but now we’re in a really nice rhythm of doing everything digitally.

What triggered your digital journey?

The company was lucky. It was going through an investing period and in 2014 the CFO decided to insource investor relations. Essentially, we had the funding to put in some new software for investor relations and some for the other departments.

The company uses a portfolio of apps: BlackLine ensures process control, earning scripts are written in the cloud with Workiva, documents are securely stored and centrally accessed in Microsoft Teams, meeting notes are captured in Nasdaq IR Insights and business cards are captured digitally via ABBYY.

What were the specific digital plans for the IR department?

We went harder on the digital marketing side. In 2014 our recognition was really low: we actually commissioned perception studies and the company we used had trouble getting a statistically significant sample of individuals to participate. It wasn’t able to provide feedback on Blackbaud simply because we weren’t very well known.

The first place we [looked] to improve our recognition [was] on the Street with the buy side and the sell side. Once we figured out that side of the house, we shifted to addressing the buy side and that’s where we thought about things like email distribution and social media. Social media really seemed to be a place nobody was using, at least not regularly and not necessarily targeted from an IR perspective. We actually did some targeting in-house to determine what we thought would make a good shareholder and then ran a marketing program.

How did you measure the impact of your digital marketing strategy?

We refreshed our website. We can go in to see the number of page views, unique visitors and [the] parts they [are] visiting. We monitor that pretty closely and can see who’s logging in. We also added a feature that allows us to see an individual’s name and email address if he or she entered a webcast for an earnings calls or conferences, for example. We feed all of that information back into our CRM, which provides quantitative data [allowing] us to benchmark and measure ourselves over time.

How did you use social media?

We went with LinkedIn and opted for a premium membership that allows you to see more in terms of how many views you’re getting and who’s liking things as well as the overall impact of what is happening with our social footprint.

Are you preparing for Mifid II?

We need to know how it impacts our program and workload. My perspective is that it’s still working its way through the system and hasn’t had a noticeable impact in the US. All of our sell-side analysts continue to cover us and [we] are not seeing much of a change in terms of investor marketing from the buy side.

What about ESG investing? Have you felt the impact of this from investors?

It’s a bigger trend in Europe but it’s coming to the US very quickly. For the last five years we have been [improving] our IR [department] and we are now getting to the point where we can focus on some of these really important initiatives. We’ve spent the last year really investigating, researching and networking to better understand the current ESG environment. As a company, we [released] our first ever CSR report. [It] forms a unique intersection between Blackbaud – the social good that we do – and ESG investing, so it’s really interesting.

Also, congratulations on winning IR Magazine’s best use of technology & social media for IR award recently. How did you find the competition?

For us, it’s really thrilling because we’re not the largest company and not everybody recognizes the name Blackbaud. To be selected from all of the listed companies was a real thrill because it’s something we work hard at every day. We received a lot of well wishes on LinkedIn.  There are a lot of really great companies out there, so I’m [wondering], are we the best? I don’t know. But we’re certainly very appreciative to have been considered for the award. It’s really fantastic validation for us.

Lastly, where is the trophy now?

It is proudly displayed. We’re lucky enough to have two IR awards: one is sitting on my desk and one is sitting on the IR manager’s desk. Our CFO actually came by looking for [the awards] recently because he wanted to get his eyes on them.