Case Study

Success Story | A Top to Bottom Technology Transformation

Holly Parrish

Senior Consultant

Holly Parrish, a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) since 2004, has worked for more than 20 years in fundraising, public relations, and marketing.
August 09, 2023

How JCA Helped the University of Toledo Foundation Tackle a Total Systems Rebuild

The University of Toledo is a public metropolitan research university with almost 15,000 enrolled students. The university is nationally recognized for offering degree programs across the arts, business, education, engineering, law, medicine, natural sciences, nursing, and pharmacy.

The University of Toledo Foundation (the Foundation) supports the University by providing philanthropic resources for student scholarships, cutting-edge research, and educational program enhancements. In early 2022, with renewed focus on future fundraising, Foundation leadership recognized it was time to evaluate current systems and processes. Their goal: to position the Foundation’s advancement team with the right set of tools to strengthen alumni engagement and grow donor support.

With this goal in mind, the Foundation questioned whether their legacy constituent relationship management (CRM) and financial platforms (Agilon One, QuickBooks, and Agresso) matched their vision for stakeholder management. Their legacy systems were completely unconnected and had significant gaps in functionality. These challenges, exacerbated by the complexity of their existing technology, were driving staff to manage much of their work in spreadsheets that were completely siloed from any system.

The Foundation’s small IT team worked tirelessly to create custom reporting tools and dashboards to provide the team with the data they needed to inform their work. Nevertheless, the systems required an enormous amount of manual effort to maintain. It was apparent that supporting their vision would require a complete top to bottom overhaul of their technology.

Laying the Foundation

Faced with the daunting task of selecting new CRM and Finance systems, Foundation Associate Vice President, Barb Fischer, and Information Services Director, Keith Maly, contacted JCA for help.

As a first step, JCA worked with the Foundation to tackle identifying requirements around Constituent Relationship Management (CRM), keeping a constant eye on how a CRM system choice might influence a new finance solution. JCA spent three weeks interviewing staff to determine how they used their current systems, identify areas for improvement, and understand future technology needs. JCA prepared a System Assessment Report that documented the information gathered during these discovery interviews. As an outcome of the discovery process, JCA developed a comprehensive list of unique requirements to be used to evaluate technology solutions for the Foundation. JCA also provided high-level recommendations for improvement and identified potential marketplace solutions that addressed both CRM and finance system essentials.

Following the Blueprint

Armed with a clear understanding of system needs and priorities, the core project team issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) to prospective CRM vendors.

Next steps included creating a prioritized scoring system to evaluate vendor submissions, selecting finalist products, and building demonstration scenarios to ensure the Foundation understood how each CRM solution performed the same tasks.

“JCA provided excellent guidance to get us to our final decision,” said Fischer. “I appreciate that the consultants are extremely organized, kept us on track, and that their knowledge of the industry helped guide me on the technology that is available. The JCA team was a delight to work with and were always available to answer questions or patiently walk us through something (sometimes multiple times) until we were comfortable.”

Once the Foundation had selected its two CRM system finalists, finance leadership wasted no time in moving on to selecting its new financial system. Partnering with JCA again, the team circled back through the process of further defining finance system requirements, issuing an RFP, participating in financial product demonstrations, and evaluating solutions. After thoughtful follow-up with each vendor, the Foundation chose UC Innovation’s ascend as its new CRM platform and Oracle’s NetSuite as its new finance system.

Tackling two system replacements at the same time was daunting, but with JCA’s leadership, all went smoothly. “As an organization, we were not sure if doing two concurrent system implementations was feasible and looked to JCA to provide counsel on that decision. Not only did they help us decide, but we continued to partner with them to help us choose a financial system. With the work they completed on the CRM preparation, they were able to easily define what we needed and were able to assist us in making a confident decision.” – Randy Rothenbuhler, Chief Financial Officer

Beginning the Build

The Foundation knew that identifying replacement systems was only the beginning of a much larger project that would require careful planning and management. Moreover, implementation would require an already overloaded operations and IT staff to take on extra responsibilities. Again, the Foundation team turned to JCA for support.

The Foundation utilized one of JCA’s Project Management Professionals to shepherd the team through the implementation pre-planning process, which included contract review, implementation partner vetting, and identification of critical project resource needs.

JCA is continuing to work with the Foundation through the entire implementation process, providing project management services along with design, testing, and documentation support.

JCA is excited to continue its partnership with the University of Toledo Foundation and see the future results of this total transformation!

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