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Just because it couldn’t be done before doesn’t mean it can’t be done now

Problems of the past have a way of coming back to haunt those in the future. Thankfully, sometimes the future also brings about solutions that didn’t exist before.

Several years ago, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) agreed to accept Fidelity Donor Advised Funds via EFT/Bank transfer rather than by check. This soon proved problematic as there were no systems in place to efficiently enter the sheer volume of gifts:

  • EFT Gifts were still individually entered manually (as opposed to online or mailed gifts, the latter being entered at our caging vendor)
  • This in turn had adverse effects on reconciliation as data was delayed and our Finance team had to look for individual gifts scattered amongst the many other gifts we received.

Soon after, we had to ask Fidelity to revert to sending gifts by check.

A few years later, Fidelity reached out once more to ask about resuming sending gifts by EFT. After some initial concern, we decided to tackle this challenge, but with a different approach. We recognized the opportunity to improve this process since we changed CRM’s to ROI Solutions, and we were confident that we could create a procedure to upload the Fidelity data en masse.

To do this, we had to make sure we learned from the past by doing the following:

  • We met with the Finance team to note their previous experience, document any lessons learned, and integrated these into our project plan.
  • Spoke to peer organizations to learn how they were working on these gifts.
  • Reached out to Fidelity to see if they could provide a data file when they disbursed funds to us. This also served as a heads-up for us to expect the incoming data.

Once we received a sample data file from Fidelity, we found that the file required some data transformation, which we were able to accommodate via Excel macros. Finally, we worked with ROI Solutions on a custom upload procedure that would load gifts in batches rather than individually.

At the time, we were the first of their clients to request and implement such a solution. All it took was determination, belief in our current systems, and a willingness to try.

Are there problems or challenges from your organization’s past that haven’t been solved yet? Perhaps it’s time to revisit them to see if a solution has now emerged.

I hope you’ll join me and my colleague Sehrish Saeed for our session on September 21 to learn more about overcoming the gift processing challenges of DAF giving.

Marc Almanzor, Senior Manager of Gift Processing, Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders