A Guest Post by Amber Nozzi Creating Solutions: How the CATLab Changed Gift Processing at Westmont
We asked our friend, Amber Nozzi, to share how the student developers last summer transformed her job.
I have worked in the Advancement Services Office in Gift Processing under Kim Shifley since my freshman year at Westmont. A large part of my position when I was hired involved processing incoming donations in Salesforce so the college could maintain accurate reporting, quality donor relations and effective fundraising. Having worked with Advancement Services for close to two years now, I have been able to see the tremendous transformation Advancement Services has experienced thanks to the hard work of the students at the CATlab.
The system we used prior to last summer’s renovation wasn’t very compatible with the processes of Advancement Services, and the set-up was particularly challenging on the gift processing end. Gift processing in my freshmen year was complex: I had to jump over numerous hurdles as I prepared and entered each gift. Whether entering a credit card, check or cash donation into the old system, I encountered a lot of unnecessary steps that made the process as a whole less efficient. I didn’t realize how clunky it was, however, until our new system was in place and I was exposed to software that would make my work much more efficient.
Many of these extra steps in the old system emerged from the fact that it was built in a business-to-business data architecture. Because Salesforce was originally designed for businesses, Westmont’s Advancement Services had attempted to fit our data into a structure that was optimized for businesses rather than higher ed institutions. While data management in higher ed shares similar functions with business, it also has its own unique functions and demands. Higher ed cares about maintaining long-term relationships with students even after they graduate and become alumni as well as donors to the college—whereas businesses tend to mostly deal with short-term relationships with customers who continue to buy their product.
Last summer, the Senior Director of Advancement Services, Zak Landrum, led Westmont’s adoption of Salesforce’s HEDA (Higher Education Data Architecture), a package that provides a unique and functional way to organize data in Salesforce for colleges like Westmont. Westmont students from last summer were able to build our new software system within HEDA, customizing the system to meet the needs of Westmont and creating solutions for the college’s largest problems in technology.
When I returned to Advancement Services in the spring of my sophomore year after a semester abroad, I was in absolute amazement of the incredible work and innovation that the CATlab had done for Advancement Services, especially in my area of gift processing. I recall Kim showing me the newest giving entry form on my first day back at work. With the new, streamlined giving form, I was able to enter checks much more efficiently since all the necessary fields for gift entry were on one form. Whereas in the old system entering one gift to anywhere from 3-5 minutes, the new system allowed me to process a donation in as little as 30 seconds.
With gift processing becoming much more productive, I was able to take on other projects with the Advancement Services office and other departments. On top of entering gifts, I’ve been able to assist in updating necessary information of donors, students, parents and other friends of the college to improve donor, student and parent relations and tracking. I’ve been able to learn about different components in Salesforce like employment records, constituency codes, relationships, reports and update objects. Rather than viewing Salesforce through the lens of gift processing, I have gained exposure to the bigger picture of Salesforce in the Westmont story.
Kim shares a similar sentiment, saying, “I owe so much to this new system. Because of how more efficient this new system became, I was freed up much more in my old job to work on new things and learn new things. That has actually grown me into this new position that I have as Business Analyst. We’ve also been able to reduce the gift processing position down to part-time—because of the mass efficiencies and the students that we hire. I feel like I owe so much to this product that these students built because it’s completely transformed my position and my role for Westmont and for Advancement.”
I’ve also had the opportunity to train our new Senior Gift Processor, Janet, in the procedures of gift preparation and entering in Salesforce HEDA. The new system the students created is much more accessible and easier to learn for incoming users, which simplifies the training process. As I show Janet the incredible software we have in place I am reminded of the dedicated work that Westmont students did to transform our organization's work through technology.
This summer, I’ve had the chance to visit Westmont Downtown and see the CATlab students diligently at work for Admissions. CATlab is committed to transforming an unsuitable system into a system specifically tailored for the Admissions department so they can have consistent and personalized relationships with prospective students and listen to individual student stories. As I think about their soon-to-be completed work, I am eager for the Admissions department to have a similar experience to mine.
Check out our video interview of Amber and Kim!
Cheerful, diligent, and exuberant, Amber Nozzi is an incoming junior studying Econ/Business and Sociology at Westmont College, where she also works in the Office of College Advancement as a gift processor. Her hobbies include visiting National Parks, hiking, laughing for too long at jokes, helping others, and being Italian. She doesn't drink coffee and is slightly allergic to cats.