Interview with Robin Fisk
Following on from the recent merger of Fisk Brett into ASI Europe, your editor took the opportunity to speak to Robin Fisk about integration plans, ASI - and his own future outlook.
1. Your recent acquisition of Fisk Brett was quite unexpected as Fisk Brett appeared to be a long standing, profitable organisation – what drove you to sell to ASI?
Fisk Brett had 18 successful years but we were always looking ahead to the future. Ben Brett, the co-founder and I explored the options for Fisk Brett as a standalone firm, but concluded that the future for small, independent vendors in this market was uncertain, so we looked at a number of potential partnerships. Our objective was not to take the money and run, but to take care of the customers, the product and the staff by combining our business with a larger one so we can continue to grow. We soon recognised that ASI’s culture and values were very similar to Fisk Brett’s and so it made sense to join forces and benefit from each others strengths. So to answer your question– what drove our decision? – it was 18 years of success and the prospect of much more under ASI.
2. How does ASI see the potential for future growth?
There is substantial future growth for ASI. Advanced Solutions International (ASI) is the largest, privately-owned global provider of web-based software for non-profits and has served nearly 3000 customers and millions of users worldwide since 1991 with 99% of customers being non-profit organizations. A growth area for us is in getting ASI recognised as a provider of fundraising software particularly in the UK and the rest of Europe. We have an opportunity to use the good reputation and strong heritage that Fisk Brett worked hard to build to firmly establish ASI in this growth area.
3. Will future growth be based on acquisitions? If so, which areas would you consider worth investigating?
ASI has achieved year on year growth and acquisitions such as Fisk Brett have played a major part in this. I am certain that we will make further acquisitions and that ASI will continue to grow in the UK and build on our international presence. As a leading global provider of software solutions to the not-for-profit sector, we will continue to focus on this market.
4. How much was the purchase price for Fisk Brett?
As a transaction between two privately held companies, that information remains private.
5. What plans have ASI currently got for providing their solutions as ‘Software as a Service’?
ASI already provides a range of SaaS solutions to customers and will continue to invest in this area. The business of providing hosted applications via a web browser has really taken off and we work closely with our customers to provide solutions which fully meet their requirements in this area.
6. If ‘Software as a Service’ becomes available to your client base, what implications might the Patriot Act have upon your clients?
The hosting solutions and SaaS operations offered by ASI Europe are hosted in the UK and therefore will not be affected by the Patriot Act.
7. Given that ASI/Fisk Brett offer a packaged base solution, does this preclude signings of larger, more complex Institutes, Associations and Charities where a serviced based solution is normally required?
ASI Solutions are suitable for all organisations including large and complex ones. iMIS and ProgressCRM are packages with considerable flexibility and scope for extension. Our consulting division provides all the professional services required to understand a client’s needs and then implement a solution based on our software products. Added to that, a unique feature of ASI is that there is a significant global community of implementation partners.
8. How straightforward has the integration been of Fisk Brett and ASI? What have been the most significant challenges?
We’re currently over 50% through our integration process and so far, so good. ASI and Fisk Brett already have shared values and culture. In addition, the departmental structure of both companies was similar, so it made integration planning much easier. I wouldn’t say there have been any significant challenges and it is an exciting new experience to be working in a global team with colleagues on three continents.
9. Having run your own business for years, how difficult have you found it to become a corporate employee?
You would expect that after 18 years of doing it my way it would be difficult to become a corporate employee, but actually this hasn’t been the case. I now have like-minded peers that can share the burden and inspire me. It’s actually quite refreshing to be accountable to someone again, people don’t let you know how you’re doing when you’re the boss.
10. How much will the Progress product be integrated with iMIS or do you intend to run multiple products side by side? If the latter, where are the synergies in the merger?
Both iMIS and ProgressCRM co-exist under the ASI global brand. We’re executing our roadmaps for both software products simultaneously. One of differences that ProgressCRM users will notice is that we are able to bring them more technology solutions faster than before, because of the much larger software development team. Longer term, we will be able to plan development so that users of both packages can benefit from the same developments. The fact that both packages share the same dot Net underpinnings makes that a lot easier to achieve.
11. How compatible might the Friendraising module be with third party database packages?
iMIS Friendraising is based on the peer-to-peer fundraising solution from Artez, a Canadian software company. The difference is that iMIS Friendraising is fully integrated with our software products and is an all-encompassing solution. Organisations with other database packages would need to use the vanilla Artez solution and then build the interface.
12. What does Friendraising technology offer beyond existing standalone new media tools? Or is it just an in-house alternative to, say, JustGiving?
iMIS Friendraising is not a competitor to packages such as JustGiving. JustGiving is good at providing a service to the consumer, iMIS Friendraising is focused on providing a solution to the charity. Friendraising is a software solution that a charity can implement to manage and fully integrate its fundraising activities. Through the charity’s website, it gives its donors the online resources to become fundraisers for their organisation.
An important point about iMIS Friendraising is that the charity has all the event and fundraising data in one central database - which makes it easy to manage the day to day communications around such events. And unlike consumer-orientated fundraising sites, the donor is solely focused on raising money for the charity, and the charity retains control over the brand and the messaging that goes on the donor’s fundraising page. There are some great features for team-based events too, including leader-boards and fundraising thermometers to provide friendly competition.
However, it has some great benefits for the fundraisers too. Through automated emails and widgets and badges on their social networking pages, fundraisers can become friendraisers by getting their friends involved.
13. Is Friendraising a global roll out or has it been beta-tested in the US?
iMIS Friendraising is a mature product that is live in a number of sites in Australia, the US and Canada. The underlying technology was used for Sport Relief here in the UK, so it is ready to handle anything you throw at it.
14. How affordable is iMIS Friendraising? How do you justify it to clients in ROI terms?
Like all our other product offerings, iMIS Friendraising is competitively priced and aims to offer realistic return on investment in the shortest possible time. One of the advantages of iMIS Friendraising is that it isn’t targeted to a particular sized charity or membership organisation, it can be adapted and scaled to suit all sizes
The real benefit of Friendraising is that it turns donors into fundraisers – so donor recruitment is free. When you compare this with recruiting donors through traditional means – for example by direct mail or face to face – you begin to realise the potential cost savings the solution can bring. So, the ROI depends upon the extent to which you put Friendraising to use. A charity should expect to recoup its outlay well within a year of getting up and running with Friendraising.
15. Personally, where do you see yourself in five years time?
I would like to think that I’ll still be at ASI evangelising the role of technology in fundraising around the world.