Technology strategy and improved collaboration for a community foundation

The Client

  • One of the largest community foundations in the United States
  • Focused on connecting donors with the most effective charities and deserving students—and addressing the most pressing needs.
  • Works as a convener to gather government agencies, companies, nonprofits and other stakeholders to collectively address critical problems.

The Opportunity

Community foundations are among the most complex nonprofit organizations for information management. They manage fundraising and donor relationships and multiple grant and scholarship application programs plus complex financial and investment management. Understandably, the holy grail for these organizations is one fully integrated and streamlined information system.

This organization came to us because they were managing multiple semi-integrated products: The Raiser’s Edge, Financial Edge, GrantedGE, Good Done Great and NextGen. Frustration with their vendors and the promise of an integrated platform led them to Build Consulting—with the hope of identifying a system that would reduce their workload, improve relationships with donors, make granting and scholarship programs more effective and allow them to grow as an organization.

The Solution

During the initial assessment, we interviewed staff from every department and did a review of every key system. We found that the organization was sophisticated in its management and use of each of the critical systems. The information systems (IS) support was experienced, and they worked hard to use each system well.

However, there were 3 primary findings that drove our recommendations:

  1. The organization had a history of making technology decisions (system selections, configuration) in siloes. This resulted in most systems being effective for the lead department—but also resulted time-consuming workarounds for other departments and poor integration with other systems.
  2. Most of their existing systems were either “best in class” (or at least effective tools) for the work they must support.
  3. An exception: the grant application system was poorly architected and supported—and therefore presented a major risk to the organization and needed to be replaced immediately.

Our roadmap emphasized a system selection for grant applications. We led the client through an effective selection project and supported them in their implementation.

As importantly, we recommended that the organization change the way they collaborate on technology. They subsequently established a cross-organizational executive steering committee and data management team, which have representatives from each department. Each body meets regularly, with the support of a Build CIO. The meetings allow any member to raise concerns or propose projects—and for each team to evaluate opportunities based on costs, benefits and priorities.

The Results

As a result of our work together, the Foundation has had several successes:

  1. Selected and implemented a grants application system that reduced the administrative burden on staff and reduced the challenges faced by applicants.
  2. Staff report a much higher level of knowledge about the organization’s key systems, a higher level of understanding about the function of other departments, and better collaboration with their colleagues.
  3. Leadership and management have a full inventory of current and future projects for improving technology, and a clear process by which to evaluate and sequence new opportunities.
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