2016-04-13 / Columns

Federation president confesses—she loves reports and their stories

FEDERATION PRESIDENT’S CORNER
VICKI ZELL
Federation President

I have a confession to make. I love data and reports. Whether it’s graphs, numbers, or charts, I enjoy the story that data tells. Which is why I am so pleased that the Jewish Federation has transitioned to a new database system. When we found out that the previous database system was being phased out and would no longer be supported, we knew it was time for a change. That led us to Blackbaud—a leading provider of non-profit software—and their solution was a product called CRM.

Moving to a new database system is both a challenge and an incredible opportunity. In my previous job as Director of Administration of The George Washington University (GW) Biostatistics Center, our computer staff upgraded our mainframe from an IBM 4361 to an IBM 4381 over a weekend. This was almost 25 years ago, and those were in the days when we had an entire room—and a large one at that—for our computer equipment. It was an amazingly seamless transition! In my last few years at GW, the university converted to Oracle and I was part of a task force providing input during the software transition process. So as we prepared for the changes at Federation, I understood the implications of the transition, the time it would take, and the importance of the front-end decisions on the final result.

Over the course of the past year, our Federation staff has worked to prepare for the new database software: Clearing out old and non-applicable data, mapping data fields from the old database software to the new software, and determining new processes and procedures for the day-to-day operation of the Federation and its agencies. By selecting a software system that is used by many other Federations across the country, including nearby in Philadelphia, we were able to benefit from their experiences with transitioning and daily operations, and have access to a stock of Federation-specific reports.

As a functional Federation, it was very important that this new database software benefitted our entire Federation family and we have worked collaboratively with our agencies to ensure that outcome. By having all of our agencies using the new database in real-time, we are capturing critical information about donors, event attendees, and board and committee members. This allows us to better understand the interests of our community members as a whole system, and streamline the cost of maintaining separate databases.

Recently, over 20 Jewish organizations participated in honoring young Jewish volunteer leaders in our community at the Yad b’Yad Award Celebration hosted by the Federation’s Young Adult Division (YAD). Capturing information about the honorees and attendees allows us to identify future board members, leadership training participants, partners for future programs of interest, and focus group members in that age range. My congratulations again to all of the Yad b’Yad honorees!

The new database software has improved efficiency in so many ways. Data entry is now much quicker—and much more accurate— with the ability to scan returned pledge cards. Reports that used to take 45 minutes to process and run, now take just a few minutes. And, we were able to implement a very important change in our Super Sunday process this year: Combined pledge cards for spouses. This greatly reduced the amount of paper used, saved volunteer time in making phone calls to donors, and reduced the number of calls received in the homes of our donors. We believe that change helped us achieve our record-breaking fundraising total that week.

As we continue to update email addresses, street addresses, and phone numbers, our database software will help Federation and our agencies save valuable staff and lay leader time, precious resources that would be better spent on programs and services, and continue one of our major goals: Providing information to all of our agencies to better help all of us serve our Jewish community. . Jfedpres@jfedsnj.org

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