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Managing Processes and Records. CASE District II Conference Advancement Services Track: Database and Records February 11, 2002. Patricia Burch The Stillwater Group. The Problem.

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Managing processes and records l.jpg

Managing Processes and Records

CASE District II Conference

Advancement Services Track:

Database and Records

February 11, 2002

Patricia Burch

The Stillwater Group

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The Problem

  • The typical advancement services process is paper-intensive. Documents are sorted, coded and filed to process transactions and support advancement activities that range from large-scale solicitations to specialized, person-to-person donor cultivation and solicitation.

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Why Do We Generate So Much Paper?

  • Large-scale solicitations tend to be highly customized (e.g., multiple pledge card formats, multiple fund designations).

  • The process often relies on manual checks and duplicate record-keeping (i.e., paper and electronic) to maintain a low error rate.

  • The development information system is underutilized.

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Why Do We Keep So Much Paper?

  • Paper is still considered the primary record format.

  • A significant number of records need to be retrieved frequently or moderately frequently (several times a month to several times a year).

  • There are no explicit policies for purging or destroying paper records that are no longer needed.

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What Can We Do?

  • Redesign the Process

  • Develop A Document Retention Strategy

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Redesign the Process

  • Analyze the Current Process

  • Identify Process Inefficiencies

  • Develop Redesign Strategies

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Analyze the Process

  • What specific activities and products does the process comprise?

  • What does each activity in the process accomplish?

  • Why is the activity performed as it is?

  • What information, training, and record flows are required to perform these activities?


    • Flowcharts and process maps

    • Transaction and cost analysis

    • Staff activity and work distribution analysis

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Identify prospects, Collect career information, Update data in system

Receive pledge or gift

Publications, Events, Reports

Mailings, Phonathons, Visits

Produce letters


Mailings, Phonathons, Visits

Process and record funds, post to GL, reconcile


Publications, Events, Reports

Run activity reports

Produce letters

Maintain Records and Generate Reports

Business Office

Reconcile, deposit, open accounts

Sample Flowchart

The prospect-to-donor process

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Sample Transaction Analysis

A majority (86%) of gift and pledge payments processed were less than $500. . .

. . . Which accounted for only 3% of total dollars received

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Work Distribution Analysis

Tasks that involve managing paper are time-burners

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Identify Problems and Inefficiencies

  • Complex procedures for processing low-dollar transactions reduces staff time available for value-added work.

  • High level of customization (e.g., acknowledgement letters) increases processing costs.

  • Redundant checking and duplicate record-keeping reduces efficiency.

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Guiding Principles for Redesign

Streamline the process…

  • Streamline and standardize processing for low-dollar transactions

  • Make effective use of technology

  • Minimize reliance on paper documentation

  • Encourage and support self service for internal users of information

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Guiding Principles for Redesign

And improve service to donors…

  • Devote more staff time to activities that increase fundraising revenues and strengthen donor relationships.

  • Reduce the number of hand-offs required to resolve problems

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Process Redesign Can Reduce Paper

  • Transmittals. This document will no longer be produced. All information printed on this document is available and accessible through the database.

  • Most Acknowledgement Letters. With the exception of high dollar gifts or donors requiring “special handling,” donors will receive a receipt instead of an acknowledgement letter.

  • Copies of checks. Copies of checks will no longer be made. Sufficient information about the payment exists in the database, and donors receive cancelled checks from their banks as proof of payment.

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Process Redesign Can Reduce Paper

  • “Backup” donor response form. Once the donor response has been entered into the database, the original response form (e.g., pledge card) will be destroyed unless it contains special information or additional instructions.

  • Daily transaction reports. Institutional advancement staff will now be given access to on-line reports with information about all payments and pledges received.

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Develop a Document Retention Strategy

  • Evaluate record retention needs

    • Inventory of current records

    • Classify records by retention and retrieval frequency

  • Assess costs and benefits of record retention options

  • Develop record retention policies

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Sample Results of a Record Inventory

  • 91% of records are paper.

  • 32% of paper records also exist in electronic format.

  • 41% of records are retained permanently despite a policy or guideline that indicates a definitive retention period. Only 9% of records are destroyed or purged.

  • 50% of records are retrieved frequently or moderately frequently

  • Approximately 500 cubic feet of campus space is used to store boxes of documents and 5000 cubic feet is rented from Pierce Leahy.

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Evaluating Record Retention Needs

Infinite Retention Period

Finite Retention Period



  • Easy access

  • Secure, permanent storage format

  • Easy access

  • Plan for disposal

Frequent Retrieval



  • Temporary storage

  • Plan for disposal

  • Secure, permanent storage format

Infrequent Retrieval

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Develop a Records Retention Policy

  • Electronic vs. Paper Records. Should records that are available in electronic format be stored in paper format?

  • Record Ownership and Duplicate Records. Who is the official owner of a record? Can we identify a strategy to eliminate duplicate record storage?

  • Retention of Reports. Why are we keeping paper printouts of electronic reports? Can we make changes to eliminate this practice?

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Develop a Records Retention Policy

  • The records retention policy should include detailed retention schedules that state the “lifecycle” of a record.

  • The schedule should indicate the official owner of the record, how long it is required to be retained and what should happen to it after that retention period.

  • Further research may be required to confirm that proposed policies are consistent with internal and external guidelines.

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Critical Success Factors

  • Leadership: A sponsor who provides resources and a mandate for change

  • Process: staff involvement and ownership

  • Implementation: Realistic milestones and clear responsibilities