By Dave Austin

Salesforce’s Impact on the Higher Education Sector

Salesforce.org continues to bring groundbreaking solutions to service the Nonprofit and Higher Education markets in new and exciting ways. While much of this effort has been focused on the Nonprofit fundraising and development landscape and functionality, in terms of products they’ve produced, the Higher Education sector has been left behind – at least in terms of their Advancement needs.

Much speculation surrounds the recent acquisition of roundCorner and the implications of how the functionality in “their corner” (sorry, I just had to) will impact both Nonprofit fundraising and Higher Education Advancement, with the NGO Connect and Advancement Connect products respectively.  But little has been announced regarding how Salesforce plans on continuing support or integrating the functionality within their own architectures. All we can do at this point is speculate as to what they’ll do with them.    

Education Data Architecture (EDA)

While EDA (previously known as the Higher Education Data Architecture – HEDA) – a package that has had great success penetrating the Higher Education market – has seen some amazing success in optimizing the Higher Ed space, a key pain point that still existed was the need for a powerful gift processing tool.

Well, the wait is finally over! Salesforce has announced the upcoming release of Higher Ed has been the Gift Entry Manager product or GEM.   We’ve recently gotten an early release of GEM, and have been able to install and work with it.  I’d like to share some early insights, along with a big caveat.  This is a pre-release product, so there will surely be enhancements to come, both in the configuration & setup, but also in terms of tweaks, improvements, and new feature/functionality.  But, for today, this…. Is GEM’s story. 

What is GEM?  

So first, what does GEM include (and not include)?  GEM is a hybrid of EDA and NPSP functionality, at its core.  And to achieve that, the installation process includes both a full install of EDA and a full install of NPSP.  It currently does not include native online forms, nor native merchant account gift processing functionality.  It does, however, include some of the long-awaited gift processing, and accounting functionality desired throughout the Higher Education vertical.   

Batch Gift Entry

There have always been solutions for the batch gift entry and general gift processing needs, such as Apsona and other batch data entry tools; but we in the Salesforce ecosystem always wanted it in the core product.  Now, not only is batch gift entry supported within Education Cloud, but there is also a new interface for single gift entry.  Both are “accountant friendly”, meaning they support tab-based field navigation and are designed for streamlined entry of gift data.  Just like you’d expect, the Batch Gift Entry (BGE) interface includes features like live lookup of records to prevent duplicate entry (think “you have existing unpaid pledge installments.  Would you like to apply this gift to the existing pledge?”), as well as reconciliation of batch total value vs. the actual total of gifts entered (i.e. “you created this batch with a total of $1000, but you’ve only entered a $900 in actual gifts”).  And of course, the ability to configure which fields appear in the gift entry screen, as well as being able to default values like Campaign, Payment method, date, etc.  Additionally, a streamlined, simplified interface for single gift entry is included in GEM. 

Advanced Accounting 

Also included is “Advanced Accounting” functionality, which allows for easier management of Accounting data and Development data.  This means that ledger entries are automatically generated for Accounting reconciliation, which allows for easy debit/credit reconciliation.  So, if a payment has already posted to the General Ledger, and a modification or credit is needed, the correct general ledger entry will be created upon modification of the actual payment record, to correctly debit the GL.  And these records are automatically-locked, so the changes happen on the right side of the equation.  These ledger entries mentioned above make integration with Accounting software much easier.  As an implementation partner, this is something we’ve always had to build.  This helps to standardize the functionality among implementations and makes the process easier & cheaper as a result.  Another feature often requested by Higher Ed is the ability to associate gift allocations (GEM uses NPSP General Allocation Units (GAUs) for this) to payments/installments; so donors can specify where their actual pledge installments are going.  This used to be done at the top level, meaning all installments had to be allocated the same way.      

Installing & Configuration  

In practice, there are indeed some things to keep in mind, such as the aforementioned full EDA and NPSP installations.  This makes the installation process a bit more cumbersome and requires extra diligence.  So, in order to bring together the best of EDA with some of the best fundraising features from the Nonprofit Success Pack, most implementations will benefit from a partner to ensure that the right configuration is in place.   

All told, GEM is a great step forward and has been highly-anticipated in the ecosystem.  As a Premier Partner of Salesforce.org, we’ll be putting GEM through the paces in the coming weeks and months to ensure we are intimately familiar with the ins and outs of implementing it. We lean on our history of implementing Salesforce solutions to the higher education and nonprofit spaces for almost a decade. Our team is filled with consultants who are MVPs, Salesforce Certified, User Group Leaders and many have experience working within the education community. We understand your institution’s needs and have the experience with Salesforce to help make sure any implementation is a success.   

We can’t wait to see what else Salesforce has in store for our clients and the Advancement community at large.  The Higher Ed space surely has needed this GEM functionality, and we’re happy we’ll soon be able to bring it to you.   

As a reminder, this product is in pre-release. All information within this blog is accurate as of the publish day. According to Salesforce, any unreleased services or features referenced in this or other presentations, press releases or public statements are not currently available and may not be delivered on time or at all. Customers who purchase our services should make their purchase decisions based upon features that are currently available.

 

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Dave Austin

Dave Austin

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