Personal financial contributions are an important source of funding for the Red Cross of Central Maryland’s emergency relief services. As the number of natural disasters rose over the past several years, the organization saw more frequent spikes in donation activity, and the volume of contributions increased by at least 25 percent. That meant a heavier workload for the accounts receivables team, which is responsible for processing and documenting donations. Advance developed a scalable document management solution, enabling the Red Cross of Central Maryland to cost-effectively handle more work without expanding its staff. Initially, Advance replaced the organization’s paper-based process with an electronic system, greatly enhancing staff efficiency and eliminating numerous file cabinets. In a second phase, Advance developed a custom application to streamline the storage of electronic check images and data. Recently, the Red Cross of Central Maryland was tasked with processing donations for four additional chapters. Advance is now scaling-up the document management system to accommodate the extra volume.
Before the system was deployed, Laura Ormandy, a senior accounts receivable associate with the Red Cross, photocopied every check and remittance card and filed the copies, filling at least one four-drawer file cabinet a year. To create both an internal record and a bank deposit ticket, Ormandy entered each day’s donations and remittance information into a spreadsheet. She assigned every deposit a batch identification number, logging that in a separate spreadsheet. According to Ormandy, the biggest drawback of the paperbased system was the considerable time it took for Red Cross staff to locate documents. Gathering information for annual audits was very labor intensive.
- Manual data entry and indexing was time consuming
- Staff had difficulty locating files
- Paper based system required a large amount of physical storage space
- The need for compatibility and integration with the organization’s fundraising software, Raiser’s Edge
- The need to share donor information with multiple chapters and locations
PHASE 1 — CONVERSION
Advance developed an integrated document management system, eliminating the need for a paper archive and substantially accelerating document retrieval.
Components included a Panasonic scanner, a Dell server with an archive management program, and a custom reporting module. The server was networked to access the Red Cross’s existing donor database, managed with fundraising software, Raiser’s Edge.
Ormandy would begin the archiving process by scanning a check and remittance card and entering the contributor’s name in an electronic form. If the donor was already in Raiser’s Edge, the remaining data fields were automatically pulled from the database and filled in. After entering any new information, Ormandy saved the image and data to the document archive.
The program automatically assigned an identification number to each batch of donations, saving Ormandy the time of consulting a log. Instead of entering information manually into a spreadsheet, she used the reporting module to generate a deposit ticket.
The new system allowed the Red Cross to retrieve donation records in seconds with a quick search by name, deposit date or other data fields.
“The benefits of our document management system are the ease of locating check copies and the ability for others to see the scanned information at their desktop,” said Ormandy. “The biggest plus is at audit time when I can print out most of what the auditors need without having to dig through boxes. Saving space and being green are pluses too.”
PHASE 2 — CUSTOMIZATION
The Red Cross needed unlimited, ongoing access to their donor documents. Advance recommended engaging the lockbox services of the Red Cross’s bank. Donors would send contributions to a special address, and bank staff would scan each check and create an electronic remittance.
However, the bank kept check images and data online for only a month. Advance’s solution to overcome this problem was to develop a custom application—what Ormandy calls the “power indexer”—that lets the Red Cross download and open a zip file from the bank. With a single mouse click, the application extracts the donor data and check images and imports the corresponding donor information from Raiser’s Edge.
When that’s complete just minutes later, status flags tell Ormandy the records are ready for review. After comparing the bank’s figures to the check amounts, she permanently stores the records in the archive, and each batch is automatically assigned a number. As a final step, Ormandy runs a batch report listing each check and deposit total.
PHASE 3 — EXPANSION
Recently, the Red Cross of Central Maryland was tasked with processing donations for four additional chapters. Advance is now scaling-up the document management system to accommodate the extra volume by transferring the document archive to a larger server with a more robust database engine.
It will also reconfigure the original custom application, enabling data importation from several donor databases and downloads from multiple bank branches.
“The power indexer was life-changing—indexing a batch of 50 records in less than a minute. What would have taken me 60 to 90 minutes, now takes 15.”
Senior Accounts Receivable Associate
“Execution is the focus. If a machine would go down, no matter what the hour, we knew that we could count on Advance to be there to continue to move us forward. Advance has earned the confidence of our organization every day.”