February 6, 2006

Former Microsoft exec poised to grow Blackbaud's products, customer base

Holly Fisher  /  CRBJ

Marc Chardon can't help but gloat when he talks to friends back in Seattle. He gets to brag about how he can drive around with the top down in Charleston's 65-degree temperatures.

"I have to admit to a little bit of rubbing my friends' noses in it," he said.

Chardon moved to Charleston at the end of November to take the helm of Blackbaud Inc., one of Charleston's largest tech companies. Chardon replaced retiring president and CEO Robert J. Sywolski. Chardon is a former Microsoft Corp. executive, working for the software empire in France and the United States.

But after more than seven years with Microsoft, Chardon said he was looking for something new. He wanted a job that would challenge him and allow him to grow. A friend tipped him off to the CEO opening at Blackbaud, which provides 13,000 nonprofit organizations with its software and products. Chardon was drawn to the company, he said, because of its work with a sector of the community he supports and its longevity and success.

Chardon brings significant expertise to Blackbaud. Most recently, he was the chief financial officer of Microsoft's $11 billion Information Worker Business Group. He was responsible for developing a growth strategy for that piece of Microsoft's business, which includes several popular Microsoft products, such as Microsoft Office, Microsoft Project and LiveMeeting.

A French-American, Chardon was already working in France when he joined Microsoft in 1998 as general manager of Microsoft France. He had previously worked for Digital Entertainment in a variety of capacities, including head of corporate strategy and general manager of Digital France.

Chardon's experience handling large accounts for Microsoft will serve him well at Blackbaud, where such initiatives and service models can be expanded. Yet working with the smaller-size nonprofits gives Chardon a chance to develop new skills, he said. "Figuring out how to serve the very small nonprofit organizations that do a small amount of fundraising is far away from my personal experience," he said. "We're still thinking through this question of how we evolve the offering we provide to mid-sized and smaller charities so we continue to grow the value we give them."

Chardon's management style is more "coach" than "manager," he said. "I have a desire to help people grow in their skills and ambitions. I believe most of the people at a place like this have a core understanding of the vision, and we figure out ways to get there."

Chardon believes in the work nonprofit organizations do. He served as treasurer of his church's prison outreach program before he moved to France. He also served on the board of U.S. Tech Corps, a group that mobilized information industry professionals to help schools with their networking needs.

"I'm surprised by how unknown and underserved the nonprofit sector is," Chardon said. "I was completely astounded to realize they spend over $850 billion in a given year, and they raise about $250 billion."

"The valuable experience that Blackbaud has in helping people serve the donors and constituents and serve the nonprofit world is one of the reasons I wanted to come here," he added.