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University of California, Irvine

University of California, Irvine transforms advancement and alumni relations, shortening processes from weeks to days with Salesforce technology.
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University of California, Irvine Embraces Total Transformation of Advancement and Alumni Relations Processes

Ready to Step into the 21st Century

UCI has advancement and alumni relations staff in 23 different schools and academic units across the university to support and engage its alumni and donors. This staff is supported by a central University Advancement & Alumni Relations division. As part of a larger transformation of its processes, the Advancement division wanted to rethink its technological infrastructure, which was starting to show its age.

“I was tasked with recommending how to move things forward so that Advancement could conduct 21st century fundraising,” said Ashish Regmi, Executive Director, Digital Transformation & Innovation at UCI. “Over the years, we had accumulated a lot of point solutions, but none of them really worked in an integrated way. That made it hard to get a 360 view of alumni, donors, parents and volunteers and their engagement across specific schools, programs, events, and fundraising campaigns.”

Total Transformation, Aided by A Center of Excellence

After gathering requirements from stakeholders across the university’s different schools and departments, UCI underwent an extensive RFP process, ultimately selecting Salesforce Education Cloud as the ideal solution.

“Based on my previous experience at another university, I knew that Salesforce worked very well in the higher education setting,” said Regmi. “Its flexibility, customizability, and ability to integrate with other systems means you can really design the system the way you need it or want it to be.”

For UCI, this combination of factors has allowed it to take a quantum leap forward in its capabilities towards the “21st century fundraising” they were seeking. This starts with development officers having a single, integrated platform that provides easy access to data about prospects and donors across all channels.

Regmi is quick to note that as much as the technology plays a role, the project represents a larger transformation and culture change within the Division that speaks to an embrace of innovation.

“This isn’t just about transferring data from one system to another system,” said Regmi. “This is about making business processes more efficient. We established Digital Transformation & Innovation team as a center of excellence to help ensure we’re utilizing the Salesforce platform most effectively across University Advancement. I think it’s very forward-looking of the division to be willing to change all of its processes to take advantage of the new technology, rather than just deploying new tech and still using older business processes.”

Streamlined Workflows, Even in the Face of COVID-19

Core Salesforce products like Sales Cloud and Marketing Cloud provide UCI with a foundation that is augmented by third-party products available through the AppExchange, like Affinaquest, which it uses for gift processing and prospect management.

Additionally, third-party event management applications like EventBrite and Aventri are integrated within the Salesforce environment so that the data from these events automatically feeds into Marketing Cloud, triggering emails that move individuals forward in their journey.

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“Data just moves into Marketing Cloud without us really having to do anything,” said Regmi. “Obviously, that’s a plus, and a real timesaver. We can sync alumni emails to send emails in minutes rather than days.”

Meanwhile, UCI uses Social Studio for social media listening and Community Cloud to create specific online communities for reunions, alumni, parents, donors, and other groups.

Running across all these pieces, UCI uses Einstein Analytics. “All of our dashboards are in Einstein,” said Regmi. “We sync our Salesforce data to Einstein on a daily basis so that we always have our finger on the pulse about where things stand or what areas might need attention. That way, we can constantly be improving our processes and making better decisions.”

Regmi added, “One of our goals was to create more ease of use around our systems. On that front, Salesforce has been a big success. More than 80 percent of our users are logging into the system on a daily basis to get things done. That was a rare occurrence with the old system.”

Since UCI went live on its Salesforce instance in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, one day before stay at home orders were issued, the success of Salesforce has been particularly noteworthy.

“We’ve definitely heard feedback about how difficult it would have been to work remotely with the previous systems – especially for a group like gift processing,” said Regmi. “It would have been very difficult to use a VPN, click through to all the different systems, and otherwise jump through a bunch of hoops to try to do their job. With Salesforce, all the information they need is online and easily accessible with a single click. In that respect, our timing with Salesforce was very good.”

Gift Processing in Days Rather Than Weeks

In addition to improved visibility and accessibility of donor data, the process of  recording online gifts has been greatly streamlined by the Salesforce environment.

“We created processes to get data directly from our payment gateways into Salesforce,” said Regmi. “That means the transactions are automatically loaded, without anyone having to manually type in information.”

Regmi continued, “On our most recent Giving Day this year, we received approximately 2,500 gifts. We loaded all of that data into Salesforce in a day, and the gifts were processed within the next few days by our gift administration team. Normally, that volume of gifts would take weeks to process.”

The Investment Pays Off

UCI has discovered other exciting use cases for Salesforce at the UCI Health Advancement, where the university has a Grateful Patient fundraising program.

Information about these patient leads used to be kept in its own isolated environment, and thus was difficult for the fundraising team to access. MuleSoft integration has allowed the University Advancement to easily load it into their Salesforce environment and tap into it, secure in the knowledge that they have a full picture of all activity.

“We bring in Grateful Patient data now on a daily basis, whereas before, it was loaded only once per month,” said Regmi. “I consider that a pretty big win.”

Salesforce has also been invaluable in large, ongoing campaigns, helping to optimize UCI’s approach.

“The university is one year into the public phase of a historic fundraising and alumni engagement campaign,” says Brian Hervey, Vice Chancellor for University Advancement and Alumni Relations and President of the UCI Foundation. “The ability to collect more data, the power to analyze that data, and the data visualization dashboards allow us to easily and conveniently track campaign performance as well as view the efforts of our fundraisers during this critical time.”

Reflecting on where UCI’s systems and processes used to be, and where Salesforce has brought them to today, Regmi concluded: “Because we invested in Salesforce and the related technology, we have a really good picture of what’s going on in terms of fundraising and donor engagement within UCI. I think it’d be hard to find a school inside or outside of the UC system that has taken such transformative steps in the advancement and alumni relations arena, and we’re proud of how it can help us carry out our mission more effectively.”