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How Large Nonprofits Save Time and Money With the Classy API


By Allison Gauss

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Longstanding, large nonprofit organizations have the advantage of an existing support network and, often, a wealth of data from past donations and supporter engagement. But when you have tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, or even millions of supporters to engage and steward, managing and making the most of your data becomes a gargantuan task.

Most large nonprofits rely on a number of different databases, platforms, and systems to collect donations, maintain donor data, and market to their audience. But like any team, these individual systems have to work together to succeed.

Classy’s engineering team built our open API with this fact in mind. We want to help you attract, convert, and retain donors, but that means playing well with your other systems.

At the 2017 Collaborative, representatives from Classy, JDC, Shriners Hospitals for Children, Omatic, and LyntonWeb convened for the panel, “Connected Nonprofits: How Large Organizations Use APIs to Keep Growing and Maximize ROI.” The group discussed several important ways Classy’s API is helping their mature organizations save time and money while giving donors a better experience.

Save Time With Clean Data

You can’t learn from and act on massive amounts of data if that data is not clean. Shriners Hospital used to spend three days cleaning up their online giving data. The sheer man hours that this process cost them was a problem. When combined with the fact that their online giving data only integrated into their CRM on a monthly basis, it became a huge roadblock.

“That’s stale data. That doesn’t help the development staff at all,” said Joe Kraynak, the director of development information management at Shriners Hospitals. This means their development team doesn’t have an accurate, up-to-date picture of their donors, which can affect how they follow up with supporters and engage with them in the future.

In an effort to improve their donor stewardship, Shriners started using Classy, and then partnered with Omatic to connect Classy with their CRM through the API. “Now that we’ve moved to Classy, with the API, we’ll be able to do that on a nightly basis. With Classy’s validation on their web form you get much cleaner data,” said Kraynak. This means Shriners’ development team has the data they need to follow up with donors and nurture these relationships.

From a time perspective, and the cost of wasted time, it’s going to be huge for us.

Joe Kraynak

Director of Development Information Management at Shriners Hospitals

Close the Loop Between Donations and Marketing

When you’re appealing to thousands or even millions of supporters, you need an accurate understanding of who you’re speaking to. A 25-year-old donor who gave $50 online needs different stewardship than as 50-year-old donor who mailed a $1,000 check.

JDC uses HubSpot for their marketing efforts, but in order to market effectively to online donors, they needed all of that campaign and donation information in Classy to be integrated into their marketing database. The biggest initial challenge was committing to pursue a new solution.

At the Collaborative, JDC’s marketing and information strategist, Andres Jimenez, explained, “We were, as an organization, very afraid of making any of these changes. We were used to very old databases and very old thinking.” This is a common obstacle for large or longstanding organizations. When you’ve made it this far with your current operations, searching for a new solution can feel risky.

Nevertheless, JDC made the leap and worked with LyntonWeb to integrate their Classy data into HubSpot. “We found the Classy API to be very easy to work with and we designed an integration scope that would work for JDC’s needs,” said Daniel Lynton, founder and CEO of LyntonWeb. “That involved integrating supporter and member data into HubSpot and then synchronizing transactions and recurring donations, as well as campaign data, campaign designation…anything that would help JDC push the needle in their marketing automation.”

Now, Jimenez and the rest of JDC’s marketing team have the donor information they need to nurture supporters and build on their initial interactions with the organization. “This is the key to communicating with people: really knowing where the donor is coming from and how we can serve better solutions.” he said.

When donation data flows directly into your marketing database, it frees time and resources that might have been spent transferring that information and enables your marketers and developers to be more effective and personalized in their communications.

Integrate Offline Donations

Many large nonprofits still rely on offline giving methods for a great deal of revenue. Shriners Hospital, for example, receives a large portion of individual donations through phone calls in response to their television ads. If you’ve ever worked on a large sales or telemarketing team, you know that they require their own software and systems to manage, record, and follow up on thousands of calls. Uniting this offline data with online records was complicated and time-consuming.

enterprise nonprofits api panel
Panelists for “Connected Nonprofits: How Large Organizations Use APIs to Keep Growing and Maximize ROI” at the 2017 Collaborative.

This year, however, they built an integration that will allow their phone center data to flow into Classy. “With the phone number, we have two call centers where donors can call in and we’re using the Classy API to [have the data] go from the call center’s system into Classy. So then, we’ll get that information from Classy into the CRM,” said Kraynak.

One way this process is saving funds for Shriners is the simplification of donor premiums. Kraynak explained that some of their direct response TV commercials offer donors a Shriners blanket as a thank you. Classy’s integrations and cleaner data enabled them to eliminate a vendor that previously fulfilled a manual step in the process. Now money that might have been spent on an external data service can instead be channeled toward impact.

Don’t Wait to Innovate

Change is scary, especially when you are a large organization with a lot of donor relationships at stake. But, as JDC and Shriners show, implementing the right solutions will ultimately pay big dividends for your nonprofit. Whether it’s arming your marketing team with important data about your audience, saving time for your development team, or eliminating intermediary steps and vendors, large nonprofits are using the Classy API to modernize their processes and elevate their performance.

The Nonprofit Growth Guide

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