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Southlake needed to improve its gift processing abilities and find a digital archiving program they could use across the 25-member organization for donor agreements, correspondence, will bequest paperwork and the like. “We average about 30,000 donations a year,” explains its vice president of finance and operations, Sheila Tilotta. “We were taking photocopies of each check deposited then filing them in a master file, then taking another copy and putting it in a banker’s box for auditors.” The process was prone to having files sometimes being lost or misplaced, which irked Tilotta. “As somebody trained in process improvement methodologies,” she explains, “these activities just screamed ‘waste.’ None of this was value-added work.”
Her co-workers might have agreed, but they still resisted change—at first. “We had a team that had been doing the process manually for a number of years,” she explained, “and they were very uncomfortable with automation. Plus they were concerned about the auditors.” Job security was another worry. “People thought they were going to be eliminated,” she recalls. “It really made people uncomfortable. But fast forward five years and now they are dependent on .”
Around 2011, Tilotta started shopping around for a digital archival solution and decided on PaperSave “by a landslide,” she recalls. PaperSave reps recommended Southlake get fully integrated with Blackbaud Raiser’s Edge so digital images could be attached to their books of record. The installation happened in steps, starting with the implementation of gift processing, and after Tilotta was able to complete the configuration and setup entirely by phone, she says she felt totally confident: “It was really quick and only took a couple of weeks.”
Afterwards her staff still used the copier but Tilotta says they were “weaned off” after two months. Then copies were kept only one week, and soon all copies were destroyed after 24 hours. Within 6 months the copier was collecting dust.
“Now we digitally archive checks,” she explains. “Our fundraisers have everything at their fingertips. There is no more running back to the big black cabinet looking for files. It’s a huge improvement.”
The gift processing team scans the checks, codes them and labels where the checks were obtained (direct mail, special events, etcetera) and flags large amounts ($5,000 or more), before they are sent into a workflow. Then the system notifies the philanthropic team via email with a copy of the check attached. “Now they are able to immediately investigate inquiries and provide timely responses,” she says.
Tilotta happily reports that the copier is nearly retired; the Foundation’s office supply spending is a fraction of what it once was; and four 6-foot-tall, “big, black cabinets” have since been repurposed. The staff also uses the system to store correspondence and stewardship pieces which, she says, has made the organization more “donor-centric.” If they one day find the impetus, Tilotta says the team will also use the system to create digital memory books with photos attached to send to benefactors.
“Being lean isn’t about being mean,” she explains. “This was not about downsizing. It was about using people at the top of their skill set. I don’t know how someone could run a not-for-profit without this tool.”
“Any organization looking to optimize its processes, eliminate waste and use the talents of their staff in more meaningful ways needs to implement this tool.” — Sheila Tilotta, Vice President of Finance and Operations, Southlake Regional Health Centre Foundation
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