A Brief History of Affinaquest: How Jeff Shy Created a Modern Advancement Solution

A Brief History of Affinaquest: How Jeff Shy Created a Modern Advancement Solution
May 28, 2020 Affinaquest

Advancement has changed dramatically over the past few decades. From handwritten letters of solicitation to personalized and optimized emails, the way we communicate and connect with our constituents has shifted with evolving expectations and technology. Yet the heart of advancement remains the same: we want to create lasting relationships that inspire our constituents to share their generosity with the next generation of students.

Jeff Shy, Affinaquest’s founder, chairman, and CTO, has been on the frontlines of advancement solutions for his entire career. Through decades of experience, a deep commitment to the industry, and forward-thinking technology vision, Jeff has shaped how we think about and execute advancement strategies.

Jeff started his advancement career at William and Mary. At the time, the school had recently put all of their data into an IBM mainframe. Always looking for a better way, Jeff spent part of his time there attempting to figure out how to make the data in the mainframe come out of the IBM automatic typewriter they used for letters of solicitation.

This challenge led to Jeff’s career-long search for a better advancement solution. Jeff has been responsible for the design and implementation of nine different advancement systems at over 2,300 higher education institutions. One system he designed lasted for more than 20 years at a well-known university before they updated to Affinaquest.

A programmer at heart, Jeff built his first fundraising software on a Wang minicomputer in 1977. It incorporated a programmable typewriter that used teletype. Later, he built fundraising software using a Microsoft CRM for Millenium and Paradigm. At one point, over 200 schools were using JSI’s Millenium, a product that was groundbreaking in its day.

Jeff has also served as a consultant for countless institutions. Through these experiences, he has kept his finger on the pulse of what advancement offices truly need in an advancement system. Jeff understands the complexities of supporting both internal use, such as gift processing, and external use, such as communicating with constituents. 

In 2009, Jeff started building what is now known as Affinaquest, a robust, user-friendly program built on Salesforce. Jeff chose the Salesforce platform because it is cloud-based, always up-to-date, and an industry-standard that is easy to adapt to the needs of any institution. By using Salesforce, Affinaquest offers a modern customer experience that matches the expectations of younger alumni and development officers. It also delivers a modular, scalable approach to meet the needs of medium and large organizations. 

In 2011, Jeff and his team completed the first implementation of Affinaquest. In 2012, Jeff established Affinaquest, LLC, and in 2016, he hired the first salesperson, Geoff Knue. Affinaquest has grown steadily since, with over 40 customers and 200% growth from 2017 to 2019. Jim Janicki came on board in 2019 as the CEO and President to guide the day-to-day operations. Jeff Shy remains as founder, chairman, CTO, and most importantly, company visionary.

In addition to Jeff and Jim, the team at Affinaquest has people with deep Advancement experience. The implementation team is led by Lori Stirling who has more than 20 years of advancement and advancement software experience.  The Chief Strategy Officer, James Werner has been selling and working around advancement for 20+ years as well.  In all, there are over 200 years of advancement experience on the Affinaquest team which provides customers with knowledgeable people to guide them in their transition.

“I can say with confidence that our industry is catching up with the larger technical landscape,” Jeff shared recently. “The flexible new tools that we have access to today enable our college and university customers to benefit from modern features, functions, and look and feel in ways that they never could before. The ability to proactively drive prospecting moves management, campaigns, appeals, is a relatively new phenomenon that is changing the game.”

Even more exciting,” Jeff continued, “the pace of technology continues to accelerate. Moving forward, we hope to effectively aggregate, integrate, and manage technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning, the cloud, and open systems in general. At Affinaquest, we’ve assembled a team of people who are uniquely positioned to do just that.”

With more than 40 customers running Affinaquest at schools like Wesleyan, Carnegie Mellon, Georgetown, and the University of California Irvine, it’s clear that the platform is robust and performing well.

From its strong foundation of seasoned advancement professionals to its cutting-edge technology and future-forward vision, Affinaquest has an exemplary past and an exciting future. What’s next for Affinaquest? We plan to continue providing the best advancement software in the world and making sure that our customers take advantage of every advancement opportunity. 

To be a part of Affinaquest’s history, request a demo today. 


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