Blowing up your records and gift processing operation

Caroline Chang from Stanford is doing a follow-up to her presentation with Debbie Anglin from GG&A from two years ago. GG&A did a business process review, including benchmarking, to look at gift and record processing. The focus was on efficiency, accuracy, timeliness and customer service. This presentation was actually tremendously helpful for me as I considered how to appropriately staff my Advancement Services team.

The study benchmarked staff needed, cost per transaction, adjustments to entries, and degree of automation. Most organizations process gift within three to five business days. It also benchmarked records entry, but sadly, I was unable to type fast enough to get that information down. The percentage of automation ranged from less than ten percent to more than eighty percent, and adjustments ranged from one percent to twelve percent. The main difference between shops was the degree of integration between gift processing and records management. As well, shops varied in the extent to which data entry was distributed beyond the operations shop. The ratio of records processors to database size ranged between 1:44k and 1:200.

Today, Caroline is going to focus on how she acted on the recommendations that resulted from the business process analysis. Senior management committed to implementing the recommendations received. They broke down the report into 35 recommendations, assessed which needed I.T. solutions, and prioritized by cost savings, importance, quick wins, and do-ability.

One of the first steps was to reorganize the staff. The records manager retired, creating an opportunity for freedom of design. At the same time, Stanford needed to reduce staffing. They committed to cutting staff once they had achieved a greater degree of automation. It was also clear that they need to deliver better customer service, both internally and externally.

To begin, they mapped every workflow in their shop, including their front desk. They did this internally, but Caroline would recommend hiring this out. They looked for duplication of efforts and multiple handoffs, then brainstormed what they would like the workflow to look like. Then they thought about what the organization had to look like to make this happen. From there, they rewrote all job descriptions.

When they began, there were three distinct organizations: records, gift processing, and central files. These teams were reorganized under one manager, divided into four units: customer services (formerly front desk), automated services, general services, and specialized services.

Customer services takes all phone calls from donors, and sends all correspondence (e.g. matching gift forms). Automated services deals with anything that is received electronically. Specialized services deals with all high-value gifts, $10k+, ACH, wire transfers, securities, pledges and pledge payments. General services deals with everything else -- uploading new documents to imaging, annual fund gifts, white mail. This is the biggest group with the highest volume.

They implemented this change with an all-staff meeting to give the background, distributed the new job descriptions, and interviewed each staff to determine where each staff thought their skills would fit. Almost all staff placed themselves where Caroline thought they would be. For the two that didn't, they had conversations about why the person was not a fit for the position they desired.

They also developed success factors for the staff -- what staff need to do to be successful, what management could provide to increase the success of the team. They developed training for each of the areas, and trained all of the staff, so that everyone would be cross-trained.

They determined this was working because the lag time for end of year annual gift processing was only three days' behind, rather than several weeks. They also saw improved collaboration between the four teams. Ultimately, they had the quietest fiscal year end they'd ever had.

They are also working on a lockbox. They plan to double-check all gifts by receiving images of all of the remits and cross-checking this with the data file, to make sure that hand-written notes are captured. They anticipate saving more time at the front desk than in processing, since mail doesn't need to be opened, and checks do not need to be deposited.

They are also working on online gift transmittal using workflow software to reduce delays in gift processing due to delays in receiving documentation and setting up new funds.

Next year, they'll be working on improving their next of kin acknowledgments; uploading securities transfer data automatically; and proactively doing NCOA updates.

Stanford is also working on a pledge statement system, rather than a pledge reminder system. Schools have been responsible for doing their own pledge reminders. The rate of actual reminding has varied greatly across units. The statement will be like a bank statement, showing all pledges by household, and what's been paid on each pledge. These will be sent out three times a year, but donors can choose to receive them less regularly. Donors can also choose to receive them by email, by mail, or both. The email reminders will link to a site where donors can view their giving history, and can also look at past statements. Stanford is also using workflow to have development officers review and approve pledge statements, with the hope that ultimately development officers will feel comfortable enough with the system to not need to review.