Customer: United Way of Greater Knoxville
Industry: Nonprofit Charitable Organization
Business Solution: Enterprise Document Management with Workflow
Business Challenge: Create a productive and efficient business process with an understaffed office dealing with an excessive number of daily transactions.
United Way of Greater Knoxville, one of 1,350 United Ways in the United States, has as its motto, “Better Lives. Better Communities.” Its mission is quite simple: “to bring together resources to improve the lives of people in our community by helping them achieve their potential for self-sufficiency.”
The non-profit, which has served its local communities since 1922, raises money from the community and allocates it to member agencies that provide health and human service programs. Work is done by a small core staff, nearly 40 board members, and a strong corps of volunteers.
Operating with a small staff, United Way of Greater Knoxville faces a constant challenge of finding efficiencies and being a good steward of resources entrusted to it by donors. Over the years, managing fundraising campaigns and meeting donor goals became increasingly difficult for a number of reasons.
Paper was one. Campaign documents, such as donation forms, donor demographic information and actual donations—checks, for instance—were sometimes fragmented between various offices, filing cabinets and on-site and off-site storage facilities.
“At one point, we had upwards of 300 boxes of stored documents,” recalls Cheryl Hair, senior vice president-operations and CFO. “And that doesn’t include papers that were in—or supposed to be in—our filing cabinets.” It was all too common for checks to be on someone’s desk, waiting to be deposited and recorded.
Workflow challenges existed as well. “We have a very small accounting staff,” Hair explains. “They do a terrific job, but they were faced with more accounts payable and accounts receivable transactions each day.”
In addition, things would sometimes disappear. “Some documents would go missing,” she recalls. “For example, somebody might need something from an accounting file and they’d pull it, but not tell us or, worse yet, not return it in a timely manner. It’s important that we have immediate access, especially when a donor calls and needs a record of their donation.”
If the record was more than a year or so old, the file was probably not even on site, but rather at a remote location. Plus, the organization was paying for that off-site storage. Something had to give. “We needed to find a way for our whole organization to be able to easily retrieve and look at documentation, whenever they needed to do so,” Hair explains.
United Way of Greater Knoxville started exploring options and found electronic document management as a possible alternative to its current way of dealing with documents and files. “We talked with other United Way staff, and learned what they were doing and the benefits that scanning and electronic document storage and retrieval had within their operations,” Hair notes.
In addition to finding a solution, the organization was looking for an easy implementation. “We don’t have an IT person, so we were looking for behind-the-scenes support to get it installed, up and running,” Hair explains. She was referred to DocStar reseller Imaging Technology Consulting, led by Mike Shaw, and in August 2010 went live with the DocStar electronic document management system.
“ITC helped us get everything set up to begin with,” Hair recalls, “and they have been extremely involved in helping us not only get our data into the system, but they also have been very creative in helping us find solutions to various efficiency problems we were trying to solve.”
The DocStar system was attractive not only because of the document storage and retrieval efficiencies it would bring, but it also integrated with software the organization already used, including Financial Edge, which is a fund accounting software program for non-profits, and Andar/360 fundraising management software.
The organization started scanning pledge and payment documentation. With front-end scanning, employees capture, index and track existing and new campaign transactions and any supporting documentation. Donations packages that once were split between physical different storage areas are now kept intact with PackageWorks and are instantly accessible.
“That impacts the whole organization,” Hair explains, “and that’s why we focused on it early on. Pledges and payments also represent the greatest volume of paper, and the information needs to be accessible by nearly everyone in the organization.” With 15,000 or so such pledges and payments each year, this initial work paid off rather quickly.
“We started scanning other documents, as well,” she adds. “We began from a certain point going forward, and have been letting things age out, and then we destroy the records as their maximum retention age is met.” They also started pulling storage boxes and scanning older documents into the system.
Other benefits started materializing, as well. “We’re such a small operation,” Hair explains, “and we all wear many hats. Nearly everyone needs to be able to access various documents, and thanks to DocStar, they can now do that very easily.” There’s never a worry about the document being missing or misfiled, and information is as close as a couple of mouse clicks.
Storage costs are down. “We won’t have to pay for outside storage of paper documents anymore,” she adds. “I have just one year of data to scan into the system before I can have nearly all of the stored documents destroyed. At that point, I will only have fourteen boxes left—out of 300 or so—and there are certain documents we need to keep for various purposes.”
Today, staff are able to easily access and sort all of the information they need to manage fundraising and campaign efforts. Access to data is controlled by DocStar user permissions assigned by the local system administrator. And the organization has seen improvement in campaign management processes, because campaign donor files have been consolidated.
United Way of Greater Knoxville also has seen improved accounts payable process efficiency. DocStar’s “Workflow Module” is used to route vendor invoices with purchase orders requiring approvals to various individuals. The organization has seen better cash flow visibility and control over the invoice process and costs.
Receivables have improved, as well. “We were understaffed and dealing with an excessive number of daily transactions” Hair explains. “Now DocStar lets us scan and record all incoming checks and payments. I get a daily report sent via internal e-mail that shows me all receivables. It moves everything along from daily postings to deposits!”
The organization has also enjoyed reduced fixed and labor costs by eliminating filing cabinets and offsite storage. “Using DocStar will enable me to keep our staffing levels as they are, even as our transaction volume increases.” Hair says. The organization expects even greater benefits as it implements SimpleCapture, a data capture product that integrates with DocStar.
Another benefit United Way of Greater Knoxville realized came at audit time. “It’s really nice to be able to pull up the DocStar records the auditors wanted to review and send those along,” she adds. “When they were done with the document, we didn’t need to re-file anything. They asked for it, and there it was.”
Looking back, she’s thrilled with the difference DocStar has made. “You don’t realize how much time you eat up handling paper, when all you wanted was just a picture of it,” she says. “Using DocStar has enabled us to respond much more quickly to our customers—and to fellow employees—when they need information from us.”