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Keeping Track

It’s the ultimate in silos. It’s how organizations keep track of their data.
Take an example from Jewish day schools:

One piece of software manages Student Records.
Another program for Admissions.
Another piece of software for Accounting.
And yet another for Fundraising.  And this week I learned of another that just manages financial assistance.

None of them are integrated and they aren’t very good friends because they never talk to each other.

The software is acquired on a piecemeal basis, and the key criteria is often cost. An integrated system is thought to be wildly expensive and therefore out of reach.

But what happens when there are two or more pieces of software running at the same time is more costly than you might realize.

Consider the challenge of fundraising in parallel data universes.
In using a relational approach to effective fundraising, establishing, maintaining and growing relationships over time are what yield the highest results.
So take this example…
A student is in the admissions process and data is collected.
Then the student enrolls but a new data entry process begins and the data related to admissions is not transferred to the student records because it’s not in a program that “talks” to the system.  So the student and the family are sent into a new system.  Imagine that this same student receives financial aid and that data is being stored in yet another location.
Then the fun begins when the fundraising starts.
The student/family information cannot be transferred to the fundraising system through simple data merge.  So an arduous process of reentering all of the information on current families begins…or doesn’t, depending on the capacity of the development office, which many times only consists of a part-time staff person.
Is the amount of intel that needs to be captured for strategic relational fundraising even there?
Did the admissions office and the administrative office get the following information…

  • Names of parents
  • Contact information for parents (if they do not live in same household)
  • Occupations and workplaces of parents
  • Names and ages of siblings
  • Grandparents or significant extended family members and their contact information
  • Alumni of what schools (both students, parents and grandparents)
  • Notes on connections in community

This knowledge is critical to the development office.  First it needs to be collected during the admissions and enrollment process and then needs to be made available to the development office.

Not by osmosis…but through integrated software that has a good relationship, just like you want to have with prospective donors and has the ability to communicate.

With good cultivation and respectful, personal and passionate solicitation, that same family makes a gift but wants to pay the pledge off monthly with their tuition payments.  The fundraising system doesn’t interface with the accounting system and it requires several processes to get that pledge into the accounting system.

If you are lost now reading this, imagine what happens to that hapless donor who calls up wanting to know the balance they owe on their pledge and that they’d like to apply their journal ad payment to their payment plan?!

It’s chaos and it’s unnecessary.  In Jewish day schools, like in so many nonprofit organizations, there’s an ongoing and sometimes urgent need to raise significant funds.

My question to you is…should the staff be spending their time re-entering the same data over and over again or out in the community fundraising to support the mission?  You know the answer…

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