An Introduction to Advancement, Thanks to Slate
My first experience with the day-to-day operations and technology needs of an institutional advancement office came through working with Slate at Technolutions. In 2019, an institution that I worked with through their implementation of Slate for admission made the decision to implement Slate for advancement in their existing database. Despite my strong knowledge of using Slate as a CRM solution for higher education, all of a sudden I had a lot to learn about advancement.
Like many, my experience with advancement was limited to the phone and email solicitations I received from my alma maters. Sure, I knew that colleges and universities solicited donations, built endowments, named buildings and more. But despite my 10-plus years experience in undergraduate and graduate admissions, knowledge of the people and processes that supported advancement activities on the same campuses on which I worked eluded me.
So I began a new process, learning the ins and outs of business operations that were completely new to me and translating them to the Slate functionality with which I had become quite fluent. It was a challenging, but also exciting, experience. I developed expertise with new aspects of Slate, and also established an understanding of how advancement teams approached their work.
What struck me most was the personal attention dedicated to each record. Yes, there is a reliance on system automation to execute business rules, and advancement teams leverage Slate queries and reports to track giving, marketing performance, donor activity and more. But advancement relies strongly on relationship building. And even if a giving officer does not have an established relationship with a prospective donor, the officer needs to be able to navigate to the record in Slate and consume enough high level data to facilitate an interaction that allows the donor to feel like they do.
This is where Slate is a great solution for advancement in higher education. The system boasts the necessary flexibility to accommodate very different processes, yet stores and displays data in very intuitive and useful ways. After working with that initial advancement team, and several others during my tenure at Technolutions, three areas of Slate stand out to me as difference-makers for institutions choosing it as their advancement solution.
Slate’s Giving module allows for online, donor-facing giving forms as well as full gift management internally. Gift entries can be customized with institution-specific data points, and reported on in multiple ways in Slate. Soft credits are supported by linked relationships between records in the database, and both users and donors can set up recurring payments to generate future gifts on a desired schedule.
The gift customization is an especially valuable feature in Slate. Not all giving processes are the same, so the ability to create custom fields and values to help track giving allows schools to bend the default functionality to their needs.
Slate is a powerful CRM built for higher education. As such, it enables users to schedule and send all manner of communications–email, text, print, voice and video. But more importantly to an advancement office, Slate tracks communications with individual records in incredible detail. Any email, text message or even phone call sent from Slate is logged on the donor record. And custom interactions can be created and saved with notes on records to capture details about in-person and offline encounters.
Institutions have the ability to communicate with donors in both a set-it-and-forget-it and highly personalized nature, simultaneously. Communications can be sent based on any data known about the donor, and key pieces of information can be merged into the messages and used to display content dynamically.
Perhaps the most valuable aspect of Slate is that it easily connects to other systems on campus, including other uses of Slate. An admission team can easily pass data on enrolling students and their relations to the advancement team when both are using Slate. And because Slate allows for the simultaneous use of admission and advancement in the same database, records can start as prospective students, submit applicants and be admitted, and graduate to reliable donors all within the same system, with every pertinent data point captured and tracked along the journey.
Additionally, Slate provides advancement teams the capability to build donor portals, manage giving day campaigns, provide alumni with an online directory and manage large-scale events and one-to-one appointments. The ability to customize individual records and individual user experiences makes Slate an ideal solution for the needs of advancement teams within higher education.
If you have questions about using Slate for your advancement process, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.