Florida International University

Blackbaud Learn Helps Florida International University Create Solutions and Work More Efficiently

Florida International University is Miami’s first and only four-year public research university. It has a student body of nearly 46,000 and is one of the 25 largest public universities in the nation. More than 110,000 FIU alumni live and work in South Florida.


Philip Slama started working at FIU after the school’s purchase of The Raiser’s Edge® and Blackbaud NetCommunityTM. With no previous experience in the products, he had to ramp up quickly and learn about The Raiser’s Edge to fulfill his duties as data integrity coordinator.


Included in FIU’s maintenance agreement were training courses. Slama began by taking a suite of essential classes designed to help new users learn fundamental skills. Once he felt confident with the fundamentals, he started to take more advanced courses. With each course Slama learned something new– whether it was a new tip from the trainer, a question from a fellow student that ignited a solution, or a way to do something better and faster.

When a new version of Blackbaud NetCommunity was released, Slama wanted to learn as much about the product as possible so that he could get the most out of it. He learned the importance of software training the hard way. After experiencing some disasters while fumbling around in the program, he determined that it would best serve him and his organization to participate more heavily in the online classes offered by Blackbaud.

The University purchased a Blackbaud Learn MoreTM training subscription because it provided unlimited access to training for all staff members. The eLearning Library, which consists of short online tutorials, was especially helpful to introduce new users and volunteers to the software terminology and “buttonology.” The ability to access quick training videos 24/7 enables staff to learn at their own pace and as individual schedules allow. FIU staff has also benefited from the live, instructor-led online classes included in its Learn More subscription. As Slama mentions, “Whether you are an experienced coder or a first day user of Blackbaud products, the Learn program and its resources can provide you with a wealth of information from which you can solve pressing issues within your organization.”



Blackbaud Learn has more than paid for itself. The return on investment the University has received has proven greater than anticipated. Through the courses, FIU staff has been able to stretch the products beyond their intended use and take advantage of functionality they didn’t even know existed. The knowledge gathered has sparked innovative thinking that has solved some of the school’s IT and business challenges. It has also empowered employees to create new and better processes and operations.

For example, over the past several years, multiple employees have attempted to merge an old database with the existing Raiser’s Edge database. When the University looked for help on this project, it was quoted $50,000 - $60,000. With information gathered in the training courses, Slama was able to create a workflow to effectively merge the old database. What seven people had tried to do over several years, Slama was able to solve in six months and save the organization approximately $50,000.

“Without our Learn training subscription I wouldn’t be able to provide solutions to problems that people think are impossible or complex,” Slama said. “The basics you learn in training give you a baseline on the theory of the product and it gets you to think. Once you realize what it can do you begin to discover what else it can do. I have found ways to do things that maybe Blackbaud didn’t intend when it built the products or that we didn’t intend when we purchased it.”

The knowledge gained in the courses has enable Slama and others at FIU to come up with some creative, resourceful, and cost-effective solutions. One example is how the University will be able to eliminate the manual entry of approximately 9,000 records annually. After learning how to build a profile update page in NetCommunity, the University purchased tablets in which students can electronically enter all their information. The University has also learned how to import pledges at the same time. This new process will be used at the next alum send-off. Not only will the University be able to save months of data entry time, it will also free itself from potential data entry errors, giving the alumni association more accurate data. Additionally, because new graduates often provide their parent’s address, reconnecting with alumni can cost the University a lot of time and money. After establishing the new alumni association registration process, the University is looking forward to saving the costs associated with finding alumni after graduation.

Staff at FIU are also working together and talking more about ways to solve some of the University’s challenges. Many of these discussions begin after a Learn course. “People are discussing things with each other and teaching each other,” Slama added. “These conversations would not have been possible without the training and we wouldn’t have had the knowledge to come up with the solutions that we have.”

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