Salesforce has given us freedom. - Lauren Wild, Advancement Database Manager, Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory

Sacred Heart Cathedral Deepens Prospective Student and Donor Relationships

Classes at Sacred Heart Cathedral Prep start with ninth grade. But the admissions process begins as early as fifth grade. That’s when SHC’s Admissions team begins working with families to get potential applicants comfortable on campus through summer and winter programs, plays, clinics, workshops, open houses, and shadow visits.

Such interactions give the school an early advantage in recruiting. But the real advantage is in how SHC tracks each touchpoint over time to personally cultivate students and their families. The Admissions team can customize each visit, matching prospective students with current students who have similar interests.

“Those potential students get firsthand experience of what it would be like to be a soccer player or in the band at Sacred Heart Cathedral,” says Jonathan Lim, Associate Director of Admissions. “They see the classes they want to see because we have this data in the database. It’s been great. Parents have commented about how intentional we are about creating this experience for their kids.”

Understanding Applicants

The granular level of tracking SHC wanted to do required a robust but flexible solution for a four-person Admissions team that communicates with some 1,200 families each year. Without it, recounting and sharing key details of interactions across staff was impossible.

In 2015, SHC landed on an admissions tool that helps improve their collective memory: Salesforce. The school now manages its entire admissions process in Salesforce— seamlessly connecting information on student and parent interactions, demographics, financial aid, and events attended. Salesforce also houses grades, test scores, and other information necessary to determine whether the student is qualified to attend.

“It made sense for us to use Salesforce because we view admissions as the sales part of the school,” says Lim. “We use Salesforce how a company would use it – a lot of it is managing relationships. What Salesforce really gave us was a way to catalogue touch points and allowing us to see and understand how they ultimately led to admission.”

Managing Digital Admissions

Salesforce supports not just SHC staff, but also the families it serves. Applicants can use Community Cloud to can check whether they’ve been accepted, denied, or put in the wait pool – and to review financial aid information. If accepted, they can respond in the same online portal whether they plan to attend and view a welcome video.

Lim plans to expand the use of Community Cloud to further streamline data entry: “The hope is that families can update their own information directly and entirely avoid having to send in paperwork to us.”

Tracking Interactions

Now, whenever he has a phone conversation, Lim can put the details in Salesforce. The next time he or a teammate talks with that same family, he can review the contact record for context. The Salesforce1 mobile app makes doing so on the fly especially convenient when staff are at an event or away from the office.

“This rich data at our fingertips allows us to have really detailed conversations with families,” Lim says.

And families have noticed the Admissions office’s savvy relationship management. Adds Lim: “Our parents and families come back to us and say, ‘You guys do it right, because you guys know us.’

“Salesforce has given us so much more of an ability to connect with families. Students want to be at a school that they feel comfortable with, where they feel important. It’s a family for them. We’re able to take something impersonal and make it personal. That’s the biggest advantage of Salesforce for us.”

Building Fundraising Relationships

The switch to Salesforce for Admissions was a natural fit because the school’s Advancement Office had been on the platform since 2014—and the two teams share 120,000 critical contacts, including alumni, parents, applicants, memorial donors, and other community investors to an annual student walk-a-thon fundraiser.

The Advancement Office tracks gifts, tributes, events, and fundraising and alumni information, but the team had wanted more of a relationship-focused solution for its key supporters. Salesforce became that system of record.

“Relationships and knowing your audience are very important in fundraising,” says Lauren Wild, Advancement Database Manager. “We needed to record the touchpoints, not just the gifts.”

Taking Care of Donors

Salesforce tracks and quickly reports financial aid and success metrics: scholarship recipients, endowment performance, and National Student Clearinghouse data on college enrollment. It also gives the Advancement team added visibility into more detailed information like the years and activities an alum was associated with as a student.

“We were probably doing the same types and number of touch points before, but now we can record it and report off of it. It helps us really know that we’re taking care of those VIP donors,” Wild says.

With Salesforce, tasks that previously took a full week to complete—such as importing
new student data and building relationships to their parents—now take a day, according to Wild: “Salesforce has given us freedom. Freedom to create fields and objects that are specialized for our needs and allows us to do yearly comparison reporting on information that formerly lived in spreadsheets.”

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