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11:19 a.m. - February 09, 2006
Plans Do Succeed, Believe It Or Not
I love it when a plan works out, especially at work.

Now, it may surprise you that I donít spend all day writing these essays, reading everyone elseís, listening to my various mixes on my iPod, thinking of my kids, parenting, being nice to the wife, covering high school basketball games, parenting, playing basketball at lunch and on the faculty / staff IM team, going on conference calls for work-related associations, parenting, running the stats crew computer for the Wabash basketball team, watching the Sopranoís on TiVo, making sure my laundry is done, making sure the dishes are done, parenting, calculating my college basketball rankings, making sure that the conversations on my baseball board donít get out of control, parenting, sleeping, and well, other things that may occur in the meantime.

I actually do work, at least once in a while.

I tried to explain what I did earlier, but itís not easy to do. Basically, I run the back office of the Advancement operation here at the College.

That entails gift and pledge entry, donor relations and stewardship, prospect management and research, reporting on fundraising activities, and making sure the database is accurate and doesnít urp on anyoneís record. Oh, and Iím the in-house expert for counting rules and IRS requirements. So I know IRS Publication 526 backwards and forwards, among others.

I know, excitement plus!

At times I attend events and glad hand with the alums, staff reunions and the like, and I do work with some alumni for certain fundraising projects, but by and large if an alum talks to me, then there is trouble in River City and I have to fix it.

Part of my job is gathering and disseminating information about our alumni, friends, and parents to those who may need to know. This is more challenging than it seems.

Faculty members, and others around campus, know certain information about our alums that we donít Ė the trick is to get them to tell us what they know so we can put it in a place so that people can find out. And then they will come to us if they want the latest information on an alumnus.

Some people just think we want to know for fundraising, so we can ask them for money. Well, some of our job is to raise money, of course. I have the power to pull a lot of public information about people, and I have formulas that translate what I find into a figure that we feel we can ask the alum for over a one-year or five-year period. Sure, thatís part of it.

However, some alumni are experts at keeping things hidden. If itís not public, we canít use it ethically. Some states have all kinds of information available online, and some states (and counties) make you go to their courthouse in person for that information.

(An aside, even though we have some powerful products here, I do Google from time to time, and when I Google myself, Iím rather amazed at what I find Ė even though you have to separate me from another person with my name who also works at another college Ė though he seems to be a systems geek and Iím just an all-around geek. Also, for curiosityís sake, I once tried to Google a girl I dated for about three months in 1991 just to see what she was up to, and she was totally un google-able. Nothing. Zip. Nada. HmmmmÖ.)

However, a big part of what we do is to gather the information to keep the alum connected to the college, and thatís what we want to do most of all.

Our college is small; we have just 11,000 or so alumni who are alive. But still the information flow is complicated, and weíre working on improving it.

For starters, weíre working on improving the information flow in the Advancement office. The thinking is that once we get that nailed down, then we can spread the gospel of information sharing throughout the campus, and weíll all be shiny and happy people holding hands now and forever more.

(Still with meÖor are you starting to nod and drool??)

One of the projects in this information sharing initiative is to assemble all of our call reports into one central archive, sorted by person.

(A call report is a report made by a major gift officer, or other college representative, detailing what went on during a personal visit with an alumni, parent, or friend of the college. They can get long and detailed, and contain some confidential information, so most of the call report is kept pretty close to the vest here in the office. Also, the alum, at any time, can ask to see the call reports, so we make sure the information is factual, accurate and opinion free).

That way, if someone gets hit by a bus, then the files will be in a central place, so that the new people coming in can see all of the past visits on their prospects in one handy dandy location.

A project like this seems immense. Our gift officers make 15 visits a month, maybe more. (Weíre not in a major fundraising campaign, but we still want people to be connected so we still go on the road and visit them).

So late last year, I started my archive project. I started by creating archive records and filing them away for anyone who was visited from July of 2005 going forward.

In January, I started the main thrust of the project. I took a listing of our trustees and top prospects, and started to assemble their complete call reports from my archive files.

At the same time, I started to compile the complete archives from anyone who was visited from January 2006 going forward. The structure was in place, and my files were easy to get to. Itís a bit tedious, but it can be done.

Iíve worked here since August of 2000, and have reports dating back that far, so I do have a lot of information.

But there are some call reports I donít have Ė and there was a lot of visit activity in 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2000 that I donít have.

Well, looking at some old directories on our servers, I found a treasure trove of old call reports. So I can now archive those!

Someone said they could help out. One gift officer had her own assistant, and those files were transferred into a directory where I could gain access to them. So those can now be archived.

Today, we found some old disks containing a bunch of 1997, 1998, and 1999 reports. Those files are being zipped and sent to me Ė so I have all of those ready to be archived.

Our new copiers have a great feature. You can copy a document directly to a .pdf file and then save it on the network. Oh, boy!

(Can you sense the excitement here??? Can you!)

So by the beginning of Spring Iíll have a complete archive for a good chunk of our current prospects and trustees. And then, with the infrastructure in place, I can train someone else to file the new call reports away.

Then, I can move on to another project.

This is just a small portion of the overall picture, but itís great to have an idea, and see through the completion of it, AND be appreciated by people when you complete it (or at least have enough of it done that people can see tangible results!)

It gets you through the days when the wife calls, and you hear both children in the background, and you wish you could come home right then and there, because something is afoot in the house.

Perhaps my next project will be to invent a ĎBehavomaticí Ė where you can just wave a wand over a 4-year old so they will mind, and not make rude noises or say rude things during the blessing at dinnertime. Wish me luck!

 

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