The Ignatian Volunteer Corps was facing a donor data tragedy. Their data was in a custom program which was no longer updateable. “We couldn’t upgrade or get support, so we started looking for a new and improved system,” says Tamara Zavislan, Director of Development.
The Ignatian Volunteer Corps (IVC) does important work with a small staff. Much of its mission is accomplished by volunteers. . IVC provides men and women age 50 and over the opportunity to serve the needs of people who are poor through volunteer work; to address issues of social justice; and to grow deeper in Christian faith through reflection and prayer based in Ignatian spirituality.
For IVC, preserving all donor data was a high priority, and they knew that wasn’t going to be easy. “We had 4,000 records. With import tools, we couldn’t have saved the gift history. We would have had to enter it all by hand. In the past, we’d had experience with volunteers moving data by hand, and that hadn’t worked well,” says Zavislan. “That’s why we decided to go with the professional data conversion.”
“The challenge when doing it professionally is in finding people who will talk to you in lay language and not professional jargon. I may not have the sophistication of a tech person, but I do know my data, and I know how my data should work. I may not be able talk about that in a technical way, but I am saying things that are important for the technical people to understand,” says Zavislan.
“The first experience I had with data conversion, with another company, was that the data conversion people seemed to be speaking an entirely different language. I’d say something and they would interpret it in a way which I didn’t mean. We never got beyond that point,” says Zavislan.
IVC finally choose FundRaiser Select for three reasons: great cost, powerful features, and the company’s customer friendly environment. For data conversion, customer service was most important. “I thought that because FundRaiser had a customer friendly environment that this could work, and that was true,” says Zavislan.
It wasn’t all easy even then, but “FundRaiser was willing to make the effort,” says Zavislan. “With other database developers we never got past the phase of them speaking in ‘techese’ and no willingness to adapt. FundRaiser was willing to adapt. It makes it easier, if you are getting understanding and cooperation.”
“We had an extraordinarily complicated situation, and at one point, I realized that I wasn’t communicating what needed to be said. I arranged a conference call between FundRaiser and the programmer who had written the previous program. That did it,” says Zavislan. After that, “I was able to talk through the structure of the old database and how that would be reflected in FundRaiser.”
“I feel really strongly that customers need to get familiar with the new software so they can participate. I needed to know what FundRaiser did so that I could say, ‘This is where I think this data needs to go.’ I had used FundRaiser Basic in the past, which helped, but I still needed to do some learning. You can’t just rely on the professional converters because they don’t work with your data every day,” says Zavislan.
“We got familiar with FundRaiser by taking the training. Two of us here at IVC did the free Overview session several times. Then, we decided what elements in the old database were critical. We developed a chart here in the IVC office. We’d say, ‘this code or group in the old database was used in such a way and we think it matches this code best in FundRaiser.’ We talked to the FundRaiser data conversion team about our rational,” says Zavislan.
“I went into this thinking, ‘you are the expert, just do it!’ Yes, they can just do it but not necessarily in a way you can use,” says Zavislan.
When working with the FundRaiser, “we at IVC had to do a mind shift, because it didn’t look the same as the old program. You have to realize that it’s the same, but the way it looks on the screen is going to be different. You just have to learn where it all is so that you can use it,” says Zavislan.
When IVC staff found data that they didn’t use everyday, the FundRaiser data conversion team helped decide what to do with it. “I wasn’t willing to throw it out,” says Zavislan. “They helped us find a place to put it where it wouldn’t clog up the system. They made suggestions, like putting things in house notes, or into special inactive category codes. That way, we kept all the historical information.”
“We’ve now been working in the new program for a year. It’s night and day to our old system. I can do so much more: get reports, analyze data, segment things. It’s wonderful,” says Zavislan. “For instance, if I am on a conference call now and someone asks, ‘how many donors do we have in Washington, DC?’ I can turn to FundRaiser and while still on the phone answer, ‘We have 1000 donors there.’ In the old program, that would have taken me hours.”
“I can do more and do it more easily. We have 12 regions nationally, but I am a one-person development office. By being able to share information in a much more time efficient way, I can bring those 12 regions into the process. It has resulted in increased awareness and knowledge across the organization. For instance, I now send simple monthly donor reports to all regional directors in a manner of minutes. That way, they know who their donors are and can work more on building those relationships,” says Zavislan.
“The time it takes to produce lists for appeals and mailings and get them to go to the mail house is greatly decreased. I can do more segmenting. The software helps us streamline and be more efficient,” says Zavislan.
“I can’t speak highly enough of FundRaiser. People say to me, “I can’t afford donor management software. I say, you can! You can even just buy FundRaiser Basic, and start like I did. What you can do with Basic, at $89, is amazing.”