At Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, segmentation by graduation class is a critical element of the advancement team’s annual giving strategy. Every class has fundraising goals for the fiscal year, and volunteer “class agents” help to engage their classmates in philanthropy through both broad outreach and direct solicitation. 

While this class-driven approach has proven effective in the school’s annual fundraising efforts, it presented a challenge in the data space. The Annual Giving team at Wesleyan University used to rely on manual reporting, a time- and labor-intensive process, to track each class’ progress to their annual goals. 

Wesleyan University went live with Affinaquest Advancement RM, built on Salesforce, in early 2019. Building on the core functionality of Advancement RM, the annual giving and information technology teams at Wesleyan recently worked together to develop a solution to track class fundraising goals and totals within the CRM. 

Sharon Cwirka, a Programmer Analyst and long-time Wesleyan staffer, presented this innovative extension at the Affinaquest Virtual User Summit held in December 2021. To learn more about the project and how it has impacted campus fundraising, the Affinaquest research and content team recently spoke with Mike Schramm, Wesleyan’s Director of Annual Giving.

Lack of Access to Data: A Barrier to Effective Fundraising

When Mike stepped into the role of Director of Annual Giving two years ago, he quickly became aware of the gap that existed between the data the team needed and what was readily available.

At the time, the Annual Giving team worked from several reports or, in some cases, a manual manipulation of multiple reports to compile useful class giving data. This lengthy data-gathering and analysis process meant that they could only produce the data a few times a year, leaving them—and their volunteers—in the dark about how well or poorly they might be doing in pursuit of their annual goals.

However, Mike was confident about the potential of Advancement RM to meet his team’s needs in this regard and others.

“I want our system to work for us,” he told our research team. “I want our CRM to be valuable for me and our staff and to use it as the incredibly powerful tool that it is.”

As a start, the Annual Giving team created accounts for each of the graduation class years, giving them a central location to record information related to that class. However, there was nowhere on that record to indicate the class goals or to access a rollup of giving to date. He approached Sharon and her team to see what more could be done.

“I did not have a specific idea in mind for what this looked like, and really went to Sharon and her colleagues to say, ‘I would like all of this information in one place. I don’t know what that looks like beyond that. How can we get to a place where it’s all available in one grouping?’” Mike shared.

Keeping an open mind proved critical to the process, as the final outcome was beyond what Mike could have imagined. After a number of conversations, Sharon and her team brought forth an idea for the final product: a Goals and Progress page that would live on the class record, providing access to both current and historical class fundraising data.

“From there, it was just a matter of determining what kinds of information we needed to have available.” Mike said. That information ultimately included: 

  • annual totals, 
  • number of donors, 
  • number of current donors who’ve given in the past, 
  • number of current donors who have not yet given, 
  • dollar totals from pledges and from cash, 
  • and much more.

Enhancing the Available Data: Developing Reports and Resources

Mike describes the current class goals and extension as evolving in two parts. 

  • In the first phase, the project team figured out how to organize and store the data, some of which already existed and was being used in other reports. 
  • Second, they built out ways to clearly present that data in a central location for the annual giving team’s ongoing use.

Developing the Class Goals and Progress Solution

On the back end of Advancement RM, Sharon and her team developed a custom Class Goals and Progress object. Within this new object, they created class records: one for each fiscal year for every graduation class dating back to 1940.

The IT team then worked with Annual Giving staff to locate old class goal data, ensuring that trustworthy historical information would be available in Advancement RM along with current data. The data was organized into spreadsheets and loaded into Advancement RM using Apsona, a third-party application built for Salesforce.

Nightly processes were established to create additional fiscal year records as needed and to pull together the relevant data. Fields on the fiscal year records capture class goals for total dollars raised, participation rate, and number of donors, as well as many commonly calculated fields such as number of renewed donors, LYBUNT, and SYBUNT.

To keep this data consistent with other gift tracking efforts across campus, student and alumni giving totals are aggregated from Wes Giving Totals, another custom solution that had been built by the Wesleyan IT team. Rules were also applied to determine how credit is distributed. When two members of the same graduating class belong to a household, their giving total is applied just once to their shared class record; if the household has two alumni from different graduating classes, the household’s total giving amount is separately applied to both class years. 

Wesleyan University Record to Track Class Goals in Advancement RM

This screenshot shows the Class of 1997 record, featuring the Goals & Progress tab developed by the Wesleyan University IT team in partnership with Annual Giving. Image courtesy of Sharon Cwirka; shared at the 2021 Affinaquest User Summit.

Wesleyan University Class Goals History in Advancement RM

A screenshot of the Class of 1997’s historical goal records, with one record for each fiscal year. These records can be opened to display additional goal and revenue information. Image courtesy of Sharon Cwirka; shared at the 2021 Affinaquest User Summit.

Reporting on Class Goals

While much of the data around class goals was available in some form prior to this solution being developed, it was dispersed throughout the system. Centralizing all of that information on the class records empowered the Annual Giving team to find and utilize that information much more quickly than ever before.

Wesleyan University Class Goals Record in Advancement RM

An example of a fiscal year goal record in Advancement RM. This record details the Class of 1997’s current year goals and progress, with additional fields such as LYBUNTs and SYBUNTs to help drive goal strategy throughout the year. Image courtesy of Sharon Cwirka; shared at the 2021 Affinaquest User Summit.

From Data to Dollars: How the Class Goals Extension Has Helped to Increase Annual Giving at Wesleyan University

Wesleyan’s class goals customization for Advancement RM is a little more than a year old, but it has already made a big impact on campus.

“We have this vital information much more easily accessible. We’re spending less time getting this information. We are more confident in the accuracy of this information, and we’re more confident when we’re disseminating the information to our volunteers and internally.” Mike told us. “But I do think that it also is tremendously beneficial for our volunteers as well. To have clarity of purpose in exactly what we need them to do led to significantly more activity at the end of our fundraising year.”

Mike described an end-of-year drive to close out the 2021 fiscal year that he hadn’t seen before: both total giving and the number of donors were up from previous years.

He credits the accessibility of the data for helping to drive the change: “I certainly think part of that came from our ability to check in with [the volunteers] daily to say, ‘here’s how we’re doing. We’re coming close to the end of the year. Just one more push is going to get us there, and here’s exactly what we need…’ It’s much easier to conceptualize what needs to be done if we can put firm figures with that.”

From the Platform to the Solution: How the Extensibility of Advancement RM Makes Advancement Work Easier

Setting up the class goals extension has given Mike even more confidence in Advancement RM’s potential and in working together with the IT team to develop solutions for all of the Annual Giving team’s data needs. Since then, the annual giving and IT teams have worked together on a number of other extensions, particularly expanding on reporting.

“There are many different ways in which [the Affinaquest and Salesforce combination] can make our jobs easier to do, can make us better at our work by presenting information in different ways and surfacing things so it can be top of mind for us,” he says. “One of the best uses for our CRM is just to give us more time. This certainly has given us more time.”

Learn More About Advancement RM

Advancement RM from Affinaquest is a managed CRM solution built by advancement professionals for advancement professionals. As we’ve seen at Wesleyan University, the Affinaquest Advancement RM provides a foundation from which advancement shops can innovate, developing customized solutions to meet their institution’s unique needs. 

To learn more about Advancement RM and its extensibility, schedule a demo with our expert team today.

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