Blackbaud, which bills itself as the “leading cloud software company powering social good,” counts the National Rifle Association as a customer receiving its highest level of care and engagement, raking in more than $1 million yearly from the infamous firearms industry lobbyist.
The two have been in business since 1997, according to internal documents viewed by TechCrunch, just recently hitting 25 years together. It is classified under “Cause & Cure” and “Civil Liberties” internally. Blackbaud provides the NRA with fundraising, grantmaking, and other organizational support services.
With records showing recurring annual payments to Blackbaud of at least $1 million, the NRA is one of very few customers (under 0.1%) the company designates “Enterprise Strategic” and gives the white-glove treatment:
Bespoke individually crafted approach for each highest-ARR, highest-impact customer: Strategic Onboarding and Implementation, and then regular Executive Partnership Meetings and other proactive engagement with direct GM involvement, underpinned by a highly-strategic Individual Success Plan.
This level of service naturally encompasses items included on other levels, such as “managing sentiment,” direct engagement with customers, targeting of cohorts for fundraising and outreach campaigns, and so on. In other words, the NRA isn’t just using Blackbaud as a payment processor or bookkeeping solution — this is a deep and collaborative partnership.
Neither Blackbaud nor the NRA responded to requests for comment.
It must be said that objectively speaking, Second Amendment rights lobbyists can be and are considered by many to be supporting civil liberties. But the NRA is better known for its ghoulish, cynical obsession with putting handguns and assault weapons in the hands as many as possible, with as few restrictions as possible as to the gun or the person. Its influence is directly tied to the reduction or obstruction of even the lightest gun control laws.
Whether and how it is ethical as an organization supportive of civil liberties to do business with the NRA is a complicated question — and one that need not be answered here, because the level of involvement between it and Blackbaud is plainly contrary to the latter’s own stated priorities.
Blackbaud speaks loudly of its commitment to social good and ESG, or environmental, social, and governance issues. And indeed it does promote and involve itself with numerous laudable institutions and efforts.
It is careful, like many organizations, not to make any statements easily identifiable as political in nature, instead focusing on the principles involved. And nowhere does the company state that fighting gun proliferation is among their priorities. Yet it is hard not to feel deep hypocrisy in statements like this one.
“Our Hearts are with the Victims of the Horrific Acts of Violence in our Nation” — and simultaneously with the NRA, which it helps fight for the right to commit those acts as efficiently as possible, and without any pesky paperwork.
But you won’t find the NRA in the list of organizations Blackbaud suggests visiting or supporting, nor that the company takes millions from the firearms advocate. In fact you won’t find the NRA listed anywhere on the site as a client, donation recipient, recommended charity, or in any form that I could see — searches for it also come up empty. Though internally, Blackbaud matches donations to the NRA Foundation as well as charities and support groups.
In an email to employees, Blackbaud’s CEO wrote after the mass shooting in Uvalde that “I share in your shock, anger, and grief over the string of horrific, violent acts in the U.S.,” and under the heading “What Blackbaud is doing” listed a victims fund it donated to. No mention of the NRA being more lucrative than 99.9 percent of its other customers and whether that presents any kind of moral or professional conundrum.
Again, to narrowly define civil rights and exclude firearms from the category entirely is not the idea — it just seems unethical to publicly support the victims of gun violence while privately supporting and being supported by the NRA. In fact, the Uvalde School District is also a customer of Blackbaud, a source within the company said, following its acquisition of Everfi.
In internal discussion threads viewed by TechCrunch, employees express dismay at that last fact and that Blackbaud matches support to the NRA. While an executive explains this is considered a matter of allowing free choice, they fail to mention that the NRA is one of the company’s biggest customers, something the employees do not appear to be aware of.
In 2020 TechCrunch reported that Blackbaud also counted far-right organizations the Heritage Foundation and the Center for Security Policy as customers. Both are still active users of the service, with Heritage producing some $169K ARR — putting it in the second highest service tier, with a “highly personalized approach.”
As I wrote then, Heritage “has been behind lobbying efforts against climate change action, equal rights for LGBTQ Americans and immigration modernization efforts. It has worked on behalf of the oil and tobacco industries, opposed health care reform and recommended the likes of Betsy DeVos and Scott Pruitt to the administration.” CSR is focused on anti-Muslim propaganda, promoting ideas like “Sharia-supremacists” infiltrating Hollywood.
Such customers have prompted employees at the cloud services company to ask that Blackbaud drop these and other companies whose actions contradict the idea of supporting social good, according to a source within the company. But unlike the recent conflict at Salesforce, where employees referred to co-founder Marc Benioff’s prominent progressive stances on many issues to justify ceasing business with the NRA, Blackbaud’s leadership reportedly harbors no such relevant political leanings.