Community Member Spotlight: Meet Dan Snyder!
Dan Snyder, director of advancement services at Bennington College, steps into our community member spotlight.
Not having written a single line of code before, Dan became a “citizen developer” for his college by utilizing low code tools to optimize his automations. You can read all about how he saved time and maximized resources using the configurable Blackbaud Raiser’s Edge NXT® in Bennington College’s customer story.
Read on to learn more about Dan, his family, what makes him smile, and his favorite automations!
Q: Tell us about your family.
A: I am blessed to be married to my beautiful wife, Diane, who is a mental health professional, and together we have three kids (Luke (10), Paul (8), and Miriam (6) and one dog, Emma. We live in my hometown of Salem, NY (New York) which is right on the border with Vermont.
Q: What is an achievement (personal or professional) of which you are particularly proud?
A: I was honored and surprised to win the first ever Community Award at the Blackbaud Developers' Conference. Being largely self-taught and valuing the wealth of knowledge in the Blackbaud Community, it was very special.
Q: What is one memory that always makes you smile?
A: Gosh, just one?! I ran track in high school (mile, two mile, steeplechase) and a neighboring town had some really good distance runners. While me and a teammate were pretty good, we were not as good as the best runners from that other team. However, at an early meet there was a distance medley relay and we won, beating the team from the neighboring town. Thinking about how we worked together as a team makes me smile and honestly reminds me of our current team at Bennington, small but mighty.
Q: Tell us about your organization:
A: Bennington College is a private college located in Bennington, Vermont. At Bennington, learning and making are inseparable. The faculty are committed not just intellectually, but also as leading practitioners in their field. Students develop ideas in the classroom, and then test those ideas where it counts—through hands-on work in the world. The result is a learning experience free of artificial barriers where students imagine, shape, and pursue their best work.
Q: Tell us about your role as director of advancement services. What does your typical day look like, and what is your favorite part of your job?
A: Ha! I feel like there is no typical day which can be what makes it so fun. There may be a new question to answer or data problem to solve, or you might just have that rare meeting-free day to really dive into and get lost in a bigger project. I am also trying to answer questions from my colleagues within my department and across campus.
I typically begin my day checking my email to make sure some automations have run correctly and see what messages may have come in overnight to make sure I have a plan for the day, even if that plan gets thrown out the window with another task that comes up during the day.
My favorite part of my job is the great colleagues I get to work with. We work incredibly hard and have a lot of fun doing it!
Q: You’ve become the unofficial “citizen developer” for Bennington College’s fundraising team, leveraging no-code and low-code tools to create game-changing workflows and automations within Blackbaud Raiser’s Edge NXT® using Microsoft Power Automate. Blackbaud Community has been an important tool in learning those skills, along with Blackbaud Accelerator courses and the Blackbaud Developers’ Conference. What advice do you have for your fellow community members who may not have formal software development training but are interested in learning how to use the apps available to help extend their Blackbaud solutions?
A: Certainly, take the on-demand Blackbaud Accelerator courses and start small. You could easily get discouraged trying something complex as a first project. That being said, even if you have no training, you know your data and processes and you know what quirks or special scenarios to look out for as you are building your flows, which is knowledge that is just as important as the technical skills.
Community related, definitely look at and import some flows from the Template Showcase. Even if the solution does not fit perfectly for your needs or organization, you can learn how others have built their flows or just solved a specific problem that you are looking to use in another flow. Finally, reach out to people in the Community who are already using Power Automate. I feel like I know most of them and they are all great people who are more than willing to help when they can.
Q: What are your favorite automations that you’ve enabled, and why?
A: All of them! No, I think my favorite automations are ones that make my colleagues’ work easier. I like to emphasize the “service” part of advancement services, and whether that is a gift notification, action reminder, or an automated receipt and acknowledgement process it is making the work of my colleagues just that much easier.
Q: The majority of donations that Bennington College receives are made online. What role does technology play in having a successful online giving program, and what tips do you have for other institutions that would like to increase digital engagement?
A: Our online giving process involves the use of four different vendors, Blackbaud Raiser's Edge NXT®, Blackbaud partner Zeidman Development's Importacular, Microsoft's Power Automate, and a third-party giving page platform. Once a donor makes a gift, Power Automate saves the gift notification as a PDF backup for our records, we use Importacular to get the gifts into a batch and add new constituents as necessary, and then Power Automate again for any additional acknowledgements that we may need to send depending on the gift. At the center of all this is Blackbaud Raiser's Edge NXT® as our database of record. The gift information, as well as a link to our gift backup folder, are stored as part of a gift record and the information about the gift and constituent drive the acknowledgement letters that are generated as we steward our donors.
Great write-up, Dan! Love your enthusiasm!
Congratulations on your spotlight Dan! It is wonderful to get to know you beyond the automation mentor are have been for me.
Dan, I loved reading this! It has been so great being a part of this community with you. Thanks for everything you do!
Loved reading this, Dan, & learning even more about you on a personal level.
Congratulations on winning the Community Award, Dan. Well deserved!
Dan - It's been such a pleasure to be along with you on this journey. Well done, sir!
Great write up!