Case Study

Success Story | Reaching an Unexpected Destination on the Journey to a New CRM

Holly Parrish

Principal 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 21, 2023

How JCA helped St. Olaf College’s Advancement team navigate the right technology path forward.

St. Olaf College (St. Olaf) is a leading liberal arts college located just outside the Minnesota Twin Cities in Northfield, Minnesota. St. Olaf College challenges its more than 3,000 students to excel in the liberal arts, examine faith and values, and explore meaningful vocation in an inclusive, globally engaged community nourished by Lutheran tradition. St. Olaf’s team came to JCA in 2022 stuck at a crossroads. Their team was utilizing a legacy version of The Raiser’s Edge 7 (RE7) as their primary constituent relationship management (CRM) platform. They were working to build a customer first approach to managing engagement with college alumni, donors, and stakeholders. But unfortunately, their legacy system, hosted on campus, was stymying their efforts to create more segmented approaches to their fundraising and engagement efforts.

They struggled to utilize RE7 as their primary constituent management tool in conjunction with their full technology environment that included numerous systems like Slate, Give Campus, AlumniQ, EverTrue and more. Staff were drowning in processes tied to moving data from one system to another. They knew something had to change. Additionally, in an effort to make up for what they lacked in their legacy CRM, the team’s different departments had layered on many third-party platforms, many of which were duplicating functions.

“We had built a lot of momentum across the division toward modernizing our approach to constituent engagement,” said Susan Hill, Interim Director of Advancement Operations and Strategies. “But, as a small shop, we knew that we needed a more streamlined, efficient technology infrastructure to make that possible. It felt like the right time to take stock of our current ecosystem and make some changes.”

With frustration building, St. Olaf was already looking down the road at the prospect of a whole new system. To prepare for this, St. Olaf’s Advancement Operations and Strategy (AOS) leadership engaged JCA to help identify and document CRM requirements to guide the future selection of replacement system(s). Additionally, St. Olaf sought JCA’s expertise to provide system recommendations and to enhance processes and data structure to improve operations in the short-term, prior to a new system implementation.

Knowing the team was eager for change, JCA’s consultants met with the St. Olaf team to assess the needs of the development program and begin gathering requirements.

Hitting a Roadblock

Mid-way through the discovery process, JCA uncovered a major roadblock. While the Advancement division was eager to make a systems switch, the IT department was stretched too thin to support a major project, as they were in the early phases of a major Enterprise Resource Planning transition that would replace multiple campus-wide systems. No matter how critical, the small staff would not be able to concurrently support another major systems shift.

With this in mind, JCA’s focus turned to helping St. Olaf consider a different destination that the team had previously ruled out.

Proposing an Alternate Route

As part of St. Olaf’s system assessment findings, JCA laid out a plan to migrate to Raiser’s Edge NXT (RENXT), Blackbaud’s updated version of Raiser’s Edge that includes a browser-based interface. St. Olaf hadn’t seriously considered moving to RENXT, as they were concerned it wouldn’t solve all the pain points they currently faced. However, the move made sense for many reasons, such as:

  • Migration would require minimal effort from the IT staff.
  • The move had negligible budget impact.
  • Implementation could begin immediately, even while St. Olaf continued working through data cleansing and process improvements.
  • Newer functionality (especially browser access and existing integrations) could alleviate St. Olaf’s worst pain points.

While it may not have been the destination the team envisioned, it was one that made the most sense, given the school’s focus on a new enterprise resource planning system. JCA presented these findings to the AOS team and outlined a plan of how St. Olaf could successfully implement this change.

Despite being hopeful for a large change, the team saw the wisdom of the recommendations and immediately rallied around an RENXT move.

Preparing for the Journey

Operations leadership immediately began a detailed planning process, mapping out a realistic timeframe to make the transition. Even though a move from RE7 to RENXT meant many familiar processes would remain “as is”, other larger changes required more planning. JCA advised it might take close to 6 months for St. Olaf to migrate and fully adopt the system’s extended functionality.

Following JCA’s guidance, St. Olaf stretched their migration timeline to include plenty of time for training and testing of new features. In addition, St. Olaf worked with JCA to craft a post-migration plan around system utilization and adoption.

The biggest change was preparing large groups of users to interact with the CRM in a totally different way. Many users would move to a brand-new interface that was unfamiliar. Another big change required re-thinking and re-testing existing integrations and other data delivery that relied on Raiser’s Edge Queue processes. These would need to be rebuilt and tested in an updated system before going live.

Making the Most of the Trip

Not only did St. Olaf plan for a smooth, successful journey, they leveraged JCA’s expertise to make the most of their new tools. The AOS team was determined to get all departments onboard with using RENXT. Based on JCA’s recommendation, St. Olaf formed a data governance committee consisting of a core team of subject matter experts. The group is committed to process improvement and expanding technical knowledge.

Following the migration, JCA worked with St. Olaf to:

  • Brainstorm process improvements using new browser-based tools for events and action tracking.
  • Re-evaluate departmental reporting needs and create new custom dashboards and insights that gave leaders real-time data.
  • Document new protocols for constituent management.
  • Develop new processes to move St. Olaf’s alumni travel program registration and management fully into RENXT.
  • Revamp processes for the St. Olaf career center staff to begin tracking key interactions and volunteer efforts within RENXT.

“JCA took the time to understand the culture of our organization and provided recommendations that aligned not only with our goals but also were appropriate for our staffing ecosystem,” said Carly Eichhorst, former Director of Advancement Operations and Strategies. “They provided creative solutions, introducing us to ways that we could better utilize our existing technology now and provided us a roadmap for the future. JCA is absolutely outstanding at helping an organization integrate and maximize people, processes and tools.”

Where Will Your CRM Journey Take You?

Every organization is unique, and the path toward better constituent relationship management doesn’t always go where we expect. JCA is here to support you through every step, from evaluation to optimization. Your CRM is the foundation of your work, and we can help ensure you have the right tools for the job.

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