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Serensoft and Development (Institutional Advancement)

"There is no longer any doubt that strong annual fund programs require good data. Not only must you know where your annual fund donors live, but you must also know their interests, inclinations, and giving history. It is amazing and sad how many colleges and universities have lost contact with huge segments of potential donors. Furthermore, they often know little more about the donors than where they live or — perhaps, in the case of alumni — when they graduated. Yet if there is one constant rule for annual fund campaigns, it is this: The more donors you know, and the more you know about those donors, the greater the giving. Invest the time and money you must to build the donor base."

University Business, June 2004 — "Enhance Your Annual Fund Response" by Bob Sevier

The foundation of this kind of knowledge depends inherently on getting the most out of the institution's Administrative System... across all offices of the institution.

No two Development Departments have exactly the same needs with regard to administrative workflow. Serensoft works directly with VP's of Development and their teams (usually through the IT Department) to create unique and individualized Administrative Computing Solutions — tailored to how you use information. We frequently do this by leveraging the technology that you already have at the institution.


Serensoft begins by holding a meeting with the entire Development team. In this first meeting, we usually spend relatively little time speaking about the Administrative System itself. Rather, we listen for information about Development processes and data. Initially it is more important to learn about how the Institution, and particularly Development, uses information to conduct their business.

We eventually address the Administrative System, when the time is right. Talking about the system without first learning how you use data is like talking about a steak sandwich without first determining if someone is hungry, thirsty or tired... or a vegetarian!

What comes out of this first meeting is the beginnings of an assessment, which becomes the core of our action plan. We then apply our Providence MethodologySM — Serensoft's proven process for analyzing the needs of Higher Education — to this assessment. From there, we are able to recommend to IT a project plan that will ultimately translate into greater efficiency in Development.

Strategic Indicators for Development

There are numerous strategic indicators that help an institution determine the effectiveness of Development / IA operations — and help focus where to put development efforts in the future. Some are:

  • Gifts from alumni as % of total gifts
  • Gifts from parents as % of total gifts
  • Gifts from other individuals as % of total gifts
  • Gifts from Trustees (included in individual categories) as % of total gifts
  • Gifts from private foundations as % of total gifts
  • Gifts from corporations as % of total gifts
  • Gifts from religious organizations as % of total gifts
  • Gifts from fundraising consortia as % of total gifts
  • Gifts from other organizations as % of total gifts
  • Bequests received as % of total gifts
  • Market value of new planned gifts as % of total actually received
  • Net realizable value of new planned gifts as % of total gifts actually received
  • % of living alumni who have given at any time in the last 5 years

    Many of these Strategic Indicators are taken from the book "Strategic Indicators for Higher Education 1996" by Barbara E. Taylor and William F. Massey — Published by Peterson's, Princeton, NJ

There are hundreds of indicators that will have varying degrees of importance to different institutions. Through ProvidenceSM, Serensoft will help you to not only identify them, but also extract the information in formats that reveal the patterns crucial to informed decision-making.

How Reliable and Complete is your Data?

In order to answer questions like these, Development must first be tracking the data elements that make up these strategic indicators. Is all information from all departments at the institution finding its way into the system? In many cases there are isolated "islands of information" located around the institution sitting on desktop databases or in Excel spreadsheets... information that is NOT finding its way into the system! This could be information on people connected to the institution — potential donors — that IA doesn't know about. Is this really optimizing the use of the IT investment?

Serensoft can help you determine if "islands of information" exist at your institution, and help you design a cost-effective path to making your data reliable and complete, enterprise-wide.

How Easily can you Extract Data When and Where you need it?

So, your data is complete and reliable. It's all in there. You can look up information as you need it.

Meaningful information — information that allows you to look at relationships between multiple pieces of data, such as the strategic indicators above — is much more complex and usually falls on the shoulders of a person in your institution who understands SQL (Structured Query Language), or another method of data extraction.

Without an intuitive and powerful ad-hoc reporting solution effectively deployed across all offices and campuses of your institution, you will not be optimizing access to the information that will help you run the institution most effectively.

The reporting solutions Serensoft provides will enable IA to quickly and easily track the effectiveness of a particular campaign, cross-reference donors by ethnic or geographic information, and more, ultimately enabling Institutional Advancement to maximize the investment the institution has made in its Administrative System.

Why Serensoft?

Technology — Administrative Systems, Web, BI Reporting Tools — these are all just tools to help your Development office achieve its fundraising goals. Serensoft will help your institution to apply these tools to best serve its purposes, and reach its institutional objectives frequently with technology that you already have.