• ~500

    Donor intent agreements executed per year
  • 35

    Minutes saved per execution of donor intent agreements
  • Donor and employee experience

From funding critical research and development to making prospective Hawkeyes’ college dreams come true, the University of Iowa thrives on the generosity of alumni and friends. Its independent fundraising arm, the UI Center for Advancement, raises millions of dollars every year to bring various initiatives to life. But when COVID hit—bringing a host of challenges—the advancement team had to pivot fast.

By embracing digital technologies, including Docusign, the organization was able to stay connected to its geographically dispersed donor community while supporting a suddenly remote team.

Finding new ways to stay connected while streamlining major gift giving

While the pandemic upended higher education institutions everywhere, the UI Center for Advancement found a silver lining: The crisis propelled positive change at warp speed. “Like many organizations, we quickly became aware of the weaknesses in our processes,” said Sherri Furman, vice president and chief financial officer. 

The transition to virtual meetups and events was very successful and the advancement team actually saw an uptick in attendance for its remote events. But there was still a major roadblock in the gift-giving pipeline: Too much paper and too many manual steps slowed agreement processing times, limited visibility and created an administrative burden that was amplified in the work-from-anywhere world. It took multiple systems just to create the donor agreement. On top of that, negotiating and booking major gifts often involved multiple people, including gift officers, donors, frontline fundraisers, finance and legal. 

“Fortunately, we’d already begun looking for a technology solution before the pandemic hit—and chose Docusign Contract Lifecycle Management to help us overcome these challenges,” said Furman.

Automating and connecting all of those moving pieces—from creation to approvals and beyond—with Docusign CLM ensured the process moves forward quickly and smoothly. 

"Not only does the process of creating the donor intent agreement take less time, it also generates a more streamlined, simplified document, which allows us to administer the gift more effectively,” said Furman. 

Once the agreement is returned, downstream processes—such as reminders and storage—are automatically triggered. And, in the future, stakeholders from the advancement team will be able to get a complete view of the donor relationship—including all signed agreements—by integrating CLM with the organization’s CRM.

Taking the donor experience to a new level

Eliminating manual steps by going digital also freed up staff to focus on more strategic work, like networking and relationship building. And, more importantly, automation enabled a far better experience for donors—from start to finish. 

Our donors want ways to engage and give that are more convenient, transparent and secure. Docusign CLM is a low-effort solution that eliminates steps and is seamless and intuitive.
Sherri Furman
Vice President and Chief Financial Officer
University of Iowa Center for Advancement

Despite COVID, the UI Center for Advancement closed the fiscal year in 2020 on a high note. “We had a very strong finish—and we learned quite quickly that we could operate effectively working from home,” said Furman.  

A roadmap for continued success

Digital technologies like Docusign not only helped the UI Center for Advancement create amazing efficiencies, they also opened the door to greater insights—with better reporting and analytics that enables the team to continuously enhance its fundraising strategy. “We’re so excited about the improvements we’ve already seen and are evaluating the use of Docusign CLM for other types of agreements, such as our vendor contracts and nondisclosure agreements,” said Furman. “All of these are on the roadmap.”