Today American Friends of the Hebrew University enjoys software solutions that have reduced costs, are easy to use, and better equip them for constituent outreach and sound financial reporting. And they serve as showcase to sister organizations looking to achieve the same best practices. But that wasn’t always the case.
“Seven years ago the organization engaged in a search to replace its legacy systems, the selection process was rushed and less than optimal,” explains Jim Wilson, Director IT/IS, American Friends of the Hebrew University. “When I came on board five years ago, we were stuck with a fundraising system that was never implemented because it didn’t meet our needs. We had a very expensive, unusable system.”
Wilson went to work to rectify the situation beginning with extensive research and evaluation. “The name that kept coming up over and over again was JMT Consulting,” recalls Wilson. “While hearing about JMT Consulting from sister organizations, local New York nonprofits, and colleagues in the IT world, Wilson conducted an extensive search for solutions and solution providers. “We narrowed the search to seven or eight companies and had them all present to our group. Quickly, it became obvious that JMT Consulting was a standout.”
The JMT Consulting team impressed American Friends with their knowledge of nonprofits and their grasp of what American Friends wanted to achieve with fundraising and fund accounting systems. “When they came to present to us they specifically addressed our issues and needs, they didn’t approach us with a one-size-fits-all solution,” says Wilson. “JMT Consulting had a level of understanding that others did not. We looked at a variety of solution providers – but it was very clear that they didn’t have the depth and breadth of talent that JMT Consulting had. Every JMT team member was able to answer our questions. They didn’t have to phone the home office. They knew their stuff.”
American Friends first implemented fundraising and then the fund accounting solution. Wilson was particularly impressed with JMT Consulting following the implementation. “Usually vendors go away once the last check is cut, because contractually the project is over. This was not the case with JMT. During the first six months we were live, they were very responsive, answering all of our follow up questions. They worked very hard in maintaining their relationship with us.”
Wilson names five key areas where the solutions have assisted American Friends. The fundraising system has provided them with unprecedented access to vital donor information. The ability to drill down on donor preferences has resulted in more effective fundraising resulting in increased gifts.
Secondly, data entry has been greatly simplified and streamlined. In the past it took two to three people, only one headcount is now required for data entry.
The third area of benefit is that the fund accounting system has dramatically decreased audit preparation time by two to three months.
The fourth benefit springs from the ease of use of the fundraising system. Wilson notes that in the past it might take three to five days to train a volunteer or temp to assist them with data entry. “When you train for that long and the volunteer or temp is only available for a couple days after that, it’s a steep cost. The new system is so easy to understand that now we can train people in a couple of hours and have them working on the system the same day.”
The final area of benefit is the greater efficiencies gained by American Friends’ development staff. “Development people need to be spending their time with our donors. In the past, they were tied to the office because of the limits of our systems,” Wilson explains. “JMT helped us with remote access to the systems so that they can spend time with our donors and access the system from home at the end of the day.”
“In both implementations, the project was completed on time and within budget,” reports Wilson. “There were no surprises. In my career I’ve worked with dozens and dozens of implementations, and this was one of the smoothest implementations I’ve witnessed. There were no flaws.”