United Way encourages ‘competitive’ donations through upgrade

p>The United Way of Greater Toronto is using business intelligence software to gather data that measures the national impact of online fundraising campaigns.

Business Objects

is supplying its eponymous reporting product as a donation through its Community program, the two organizations said Wednesday. The United Way is using it to cull reports based on contributions made through [email protected], an online campaign tool that was jointly developed by several of the charity’s Canadian offices.

David Cook, vice-president of information services and e-business at the United Way of Greater Toronto, said the organization had originally been using Crystal Reports until an increase in users made it difficult to meet demands. Business Objects, which later acquired Crystal Decisions, later converted the United Way to Crystal Enterprise licences, which has provided much more capacity, Cook said.

“When we started it was actually quite rudimentary,” he said. “As our understanding of what the donors wanted from us became more sophisticated, we realized we needed to get much more sophisticated in terms of the information we gave back to the workplace.”

For example, the tool allows the ability for some “friendly competition” between groups in a workplace by tracking which ones have made contributions soon enough to qualify for early-bird draws. Cook hopes to eventually provide more analytic capability to his users by assessing donor behaviour, and figuring out what kind of campaigns seem to work best.

James Thomas, a Business Objects product director based in Vancouver, said the United Way has not only converted manual paper processes into electronic ones, it has realized the need to get more value from the data it collects.

“In a classic sense, they built an application, but not with the need to get information out of it,” he said. “They could manage a campaign – capturing where these donations came from – but they didn’t have any reporting on top of it.”

There are seven United Ways centres using the product in Canada right now, including Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg and Halifax. In the United States, the Boston headquarters is using it as well, Cook said.

When individuals or companies donate to [email protected], they have the option of designating where their money will go.

“Because that happens, we now distribute reports to every United Way across Canada, telling them how their campaign is going on a national basis,” he said.

Like any enterprise, Thomas said charities such as the United Way are trying to demonstrate a return on their donors’ investments. That’s why business intellgence is crucial to measuring campaign effectiveness, he said.

“What they can see is a real dashboard view of the actual campaign itself,” he said. “There’s a summarized view, a view by region, the optimal disbursements of funds, what are the best charities for them to contribute to.”

United Way does much of its fundraising between September and December. One of the reasons for going to Crystal Enterprise, Cook said, is because it was considered capable of handling the kinds of volumes the organization throws at it.

The average donation that people make online to United Way is about $330. Cook said 89,000 people across North America went onto the system last year to make donations that totalled $29.3 million.

Comment: [email protected]

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