Transforming Major Giving in Higher Education

Many higher education institutions are in uncharted territories due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Campuses are shutting down and thousands of study-abroad students are being brought home. Major conferences, reunions and commencement ceremonies are being called off and reworked into virtual events. As universities lose money on meal plans, housing contracts and uncertain fall enrollment numbers, the need for donations and financial contributions is at an all-time high.

For many educational institutions, the pandemic hit right in the middle of their giving days. Just as professors were forced to pivot to online learning, fundraisers and advancement teams must follow suit to secure much-needed funds. Now, more than ever, fundraisers must be donor-centric and leverage technology to reach, solicit and steward their most generous donors.

Higher education advancement is rapidly changing

The world of fundraising and advancement looked much different as little as ten years ago. Jean Pembleton, former Major Gifts Officer at Stanford University, recalls how donor systems were bare-bones and did little else beyond record keeping. Teams were mostly focused on tracking interactions or communicating at scale, which made gathering more granular information difficult. Methods of bringing data points together were minimal. The whole process was, for lack of a better word, clunky. Simple reporting was anything but simple. 

While this crisis has presented undeniable challenges, it's nonetheless still an incredible time to work in advancement. Making shifts toward digital strategies has been a to-do list item for those in the advancement space for quite some time. Ironically, the pandemic has become the circumstance forcibly propelling those plans into motion. The new age of CRM optimizes the donor relations process in ways that weren't considered possible just a few years ago.

How CRM can elevate the advancement process

Frontline fundraisers have a full plate when it comes to their day-to-day job responsibilities. They're tasked with building, maintaining and growing a successful portfolio of donor relationships. They keep track of donor stages within their pipelines, record and track donor visits, plan for upcoming trips and log calls. Keeping all of their information and contacts organized without a unified system is challenging.

Fundraising and advancement team members juggle many vital responsibilities. To maintain productivity, they must have all necessary data points in one easy-to-access repository. This need for unification is why CRM needs to go beyond basic record-keeping; it should make your job easier while boosting productivity. 

Products like Salesforce Gift Entry Manager (GEM) exist to help frontline fundraisers build relationships with several different types of donors. Each donor can be segmented and managed within Salesforce for easy management. Your CRM should be able to recognize, parse and assign different types of donors, such as, major donors or planned giving donors.

Agreements within the major giving process

There are several steps within the major giving agreement process. A CRM should automate tasks and trigger workflows for identification, cultivation, solicitation and stewardship of donations.

Multiple processes exist within these stages, from editing to routing to signing.  Automating and connecting these moving pieces is critical to making sure the process moves forward quickly and smoothly. On top of this, there are also multiple people involved in each of these steps, such as gift officers, donors, frontline fundraisers, finance, legal and more.

These fragmented processes create an elongated lifecycle, which isn’t optimal for advancement departments. The agreement lifecycle isn’t finished once a signature is received. Several other administrative tasks follow. One majorly overlooked step is retrieving signed documents. Organizations must be able to locate and analyze the agreement down the road.

Modernizing systems of agreement to support major giving

When it comes to major giving, signing is just one stage within the contract lifecycle. To improve the major gift agreement process, DocuSign has modernized and connected the entire system of agreement, which is how you prepare, sign, act on, and manage agreements.

By using workflow automation, open APIs and artificial intelligence, the DocuSign Agreement Cloud automates the following steps:

  1. Preparing the agreement. DocuSign helps generate the original document by auto-filling information and adding the correct terms. For example, restricted versus unrestricted funds would require different language to be added to separate agreements.
  2. Document collaboration. DocuSign streamlines redlining, negotiation, version-control and approvals both internally and with the donor. 
  3. Sending agreements. DocuSign automatically prompts agreements to be sent only when the necessary information is filled out. You’ll be able to preview your message and add multiple recipients. The sending feature ensures no one is forgotten and reduces errors that could further delay the agreement process.
  4. Acting on the agreement. DocuSign’s Salesforce integration leverages a task management system that automatically triggers downstream processes, such as gift funding and processing, at the right moment. Action can be taken anywhere, anytime using the DocuSign mobile app.
  5. Document Management. Once agreements are signed and acted on, you’ll be able to store and locate the agreement in the future quickly using intelligent insights. This provides optimal reporting and tracking of the document. Automation also assists you in finding the document and retrieving its contents without needing to open and read it.

Using DocuSign and Salesforce for the major gifts process

Here’s an example of how fundraising and advancement teams would use DocuSign and Salesforce to optimize the major gifts process:

  1. The frontline fundraiser gathers all necessary information and enters it into Salesforce, which creates an opportunity.
  2. The information from the opportunity is automatically pushed over to DocuSign Contract Lifecycle Management (CLM) system, which pulls the information required to build a customized agreement. 
  3. The agreement is sent from DocuSign CLM internally so that the advancement office and other stakeholders, such as a dean, treasurer or Legal, can review, redline, and approve. 
  4. The agreement is then sent to the donor. She can easily make changes to the document using her word processor of choice. She’s able to redline, edit and add information to the document before electronically sending it back.
  5. Once the agreement is returned, downstream processes like reminders, storage and history tracking can occur. 

Despite the current impact on university fundraising, these are exciting times to be involved in major giving. For teams that have been wanting to digitize donor processes for quite some time, the pandemic has expedited digitizing the solicitation process. Advancement teams can now optimize their gift agreement process by combining CRM and CLM for automated management. Using a modern system of agreement, front line fundraisers can now quickly create documents and send them to the advancement department for redlining and approval. Donors can receive, amend and return gift agreements electronically. Infusing these technologies creates a donor-centric approach to fundraising that will shorten the agreement lifecycle and help raise more money for educational institutions.

To learn more and see DocuSign and Salesforce in action, view our on-demand webinar Adapting to the New Normal: Digital Transformation in the Major Giving Lifecycle.

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