A Tale of Two Systems: As Told by Cornell Lab of Ornithology

The year was 2013. The place was the Cornell Lab of Ornithology* in Ithaca New York, set in a beautiful rural wooded marsh with ponds and wildlife.

(*ornithology is the study of birds – who doesn’t love birds?
Go to www.allaboutbirds.org to see what I’m talking about!)

The Problem

Our online membership program was thriving and the patchwork system we had in place to process the transactions and organize our data just couldn’t keep up. Our online giving system was complicated and – even worse – not PCI-compliant. We entered data manually, and at busy times, suffered a 3-6 week lag processing the donations. We desperately needed an online solution to meet our growing needs, so we put together a requirements list and did our homework comparing five different systems.

The Solution

We ultimately decided to use Engaging Networks for our fundraising and email program. More than anything, we wanted a tool set that would scale with us in the future. Our other priorities included:

  • PCI-compliance;
  • Comprehensively and holistically track our online giving;
  • Move data from one system to another quickly; and
  • Produce reports quickly and easily to allow us to make better decisions.

Engaging Networks fulfilled our wish list and then some. We signed on the dotted line and were up and running a few months later.

The Results

Fast forward to years 2015 and 2016. Cornell Lab of Ornithology has 3 times as many donations compared to 2013, but the same number of staff members processing donors and donations and there is no lag time. Our Engaging Networks transactions are processed automatically into our database of record with the Super Importer Exporter by JMG Solutions. As a result, our data is more reliable. We have far fewer phone calls asking or complaining about acknowledgments and receipts and we have happier employees!

This year, for #GivingTuesday, we had over 3,400 transactions totaling more than $200,000 (up from about 800 donations totaling $66,000 in 2015). Everything performed exactly as expected.

We are still thrilled with our decision to use Engaging Networks and encourage other nonprofits looking for a faster, easier and more accurate fundraising solution to evaluate this platform.