"Evaluating and searching for technology solutions was a daunting task. Most software programs on the market today are extremely pricy, or they just don't offer the donor management tools and technical support we, as a small organization, were looking for,"
Alla Zeltser-Fitch, Development Director at the Vista Center
For more than two decades, the Vista Center has been helping the blind and visually impaired of Santa Cruz County, California gain independence and prevent the social isolation that can often accompany blindness.
The Vista Center has many distinct programs to target the individual needs of its clients by examining the extent of vision loss in conjunction with an assessment of their personal goals and living requirements. For example, the Vista Center provides independent living skills training through personalized instruction to ensure that its clients are learning to live independently.
Additionally, the Vista Center provides orientation and mobility training including correct usage of a white cane, safe and independent travel, bus travel, orientation to the environment, as well as Braille instruction.
The Vista Center's mission is to preserve independence for the blind and visually impaired. To successfully achieve its goals from year-to-year, the organization relies largely on the donor community to support its programs and services. But like most small nonprofit organizations, the Vista Center has limited resources to cover administrative tasks that go hand-in-hand with donor information management — one of the most important operations necessary for the continued success of nonprofit organizations. For years, the Vista Center relied on Microsoft Excel spreadsheets to store and manage their valuable historical donor information. However, this process soon became unruly and resulted in the loss of institutional memory over time.
"We were storing 10 years of donor information including greetings, addresses, and gifts in over 26 different Excel spreadsheets with anywhere from 25 to more than 1,000 names per database," recalls Alla Zeltser-Fitch, Development Director at the Vista Center. "With disparate information throughout the organization, it was difficult to understand the giving history of our donors, and as a result, we weren't effectively cultivating the donor relationships we desired." As a result of contrasting and oftentimes duplicate donor information, the organization ran into problems with mailings and was unable to effectively target many of its donors during fundraising campaigns. This was especially prevalent when determining the giving history of its donors including programs they supported, and even the simplest task of assigning the appropriate greeting to donors within a household proved to be problematic.
The Vista Center recognized the value that software can play in streamlining operations and donor information management, but was continuously discouraged with the options available in the marketplace. "Evaluating and searching for technology solutions was a daunting task. Most software programs on the market today are extremely pricey, or they just don't offer the donor management tools and technical support we, as a small organization, we're looking for," added Zeltser-Fitch.
In the summer of 2003, the Vista Center was offered the opportunity to take part in a beta test program for Arreva Software's new product - Exceed! Basic. Designed specifically for smaller nonprofit organizations, Exceed! Basic is a compact version of Arreva's successful flagship product - Exceed! Premier. Exceed! Basic provides organizations with the essential tools needed to manage the day-to-day operations giving smaller nonprofits the power of fundraising and donor management software common at larger nonprofit organizations.
Today, the Vista Center uses Exceed! Basic to manage its entire donor database in one centralized repository. This means that the organization - for the first time - can track the giving history of donors, likes and dislikes, and gifts to more effectively communicate with this important audience. Furthermore, Exceed! Basic enables the Vista Center to quickly analyze which donors are responding to different campaigns and events, allowing the organization to optimize future endeavors. In addition, the organization is saving time on mailings due to Arreva's mailing and data export functionality.
"The Vista Center is a perfect example of a small organization that has suffered due to the high costs and inaccessibility of good fundraising and donor management software," said Zeltser-Fitch. "For only $499, Arreva Software's Exceed! Basic has helped us to streamline our donor management processes, and focus on cultivating donor relationships like we never thought possible."