Streamlined Data Entry Helps University's Fundraising

The University of Virginia's Office of University Development is saving time and money by instituting data quality software that helps employees enter critical data into a centralized database more quickly and accurately.

The Office of University Development, the central fundraising arm of UVA, offers regional fundraising, planned giving, information services, research, gift accounting, communications and donor relations.

The office houses a central database of donors (referred to as “friends” by UVA), alumni and parents of students. It includes data such as names and addresses, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, place of work and gifts to the university. The database also connects parents and students.

Groups use the database to pull their mailing lists for fundraising and direct mail campaigns. These groups include the Annual Giving and the Reunions offices and the MY-D-CAVs — which stands for My Yearly Dollars Count At Virginia — the young alumni segment of UVA's annual giving program.

The database also is accessed for similar purposes by the development offices in the UVA schools, the university's general alumni association and each of the schools' specific alumni associations.

UVA alumni on average “can get possibly 12 pieces of mail per year,” said Abby Endres, information processing supervisor at the Office of University Development.

The database contains about 350,000 names. The development office last year added 44,000 addresses and modified 57,000 as ZIP codes, telephone numbers or typos were corrected.

“We are continually searching for ways to improve the quality of our data,” Endres said. “The database is constantly growing, and its quality is being refined regularly.”

Endres wanted to find a tool to help data entry employees input information more quickly and accurately. The information comes from sources such as staff members who e-mail the development office new e-mail addresses of alumni or students.

Also, because the development office puts Return Service Requested endorsements from the U.S. Postal Service on its mail pieces, when a mail piece is undeliverable as addressed, it is returned to UVA with new address information or the reason for nondelivery.

In May, the development office chose QuickAddress database quality software from QAS, Boston, which validates addresses at the data point of entry. The tool helps save money on everything from returned mail to delivery surcharges and lost packages. This raises ROI on marketing campaigns.

“When we type part of an address into QAS, such as the ZIP code, the ZIP+4 will pop up, which is something we were looking for because ZIP+4 mail is highly deliverable,” Endres said.

QuickAddress also can automatically fill in a complete, valid address from as few as 15 keystrokes.

“If you type in the first three digits of a ZIP code, the software will give you a list of ZIP codes, and you choose the one you want, so out of nine keystrokes, you only type three,” Endres said. “Or, you start typing in the name of a street, and you might type only three characters, and you get a list to choose from and you choose the one you want, so that's saving additional keystrokes.”

UVA also needed software to merge and format its unusual data sources, which QuickAddress could accomplish. For example, UVA uses a business-formal format for addresses — “Street” instead of “St.,” for example — printed on its mailers.

“QAS actually worked with us very closely to meet our formatting needs,” Endres said. “While this is the format the University of Virginia uses, it actually deviates from what the U.S. Postal Service prefers.”

The University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA, was founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819. It includes 10 schools, 10,000 faculty and staff members and 18,000 students.

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