Susan King had a good problem.
JewishGen Inc., the League City, Texas-based nonprofit organization that King had founded to help people trace their Jewish heritage, was growing rapidly -- adding approximately 5,000 members each month. What had originated in '87 as a message-based bulletin board system, moved online in '94 and soon became one of the most popular Web sites for researching Jewish heritage. By the late '90s, it had grown so much that its user databases were too unwieldy to manage.
"We had seven or eight places where we had data, and we really could not identify our users in one single place," King said.
With different "customers" or users -- such as financial donors, material donors and people looking for family -- spread across multiple databases, JewishGen could not properly identify or target its users. This problem came to a head in early 2000 when fundraising consultants brought the issue to King's attention. And with thousands of new registrants each month, the problem was only going to get worse.
But King knew she needed to do more than just de-duplicate and consolidate multiple databases to make fundraising a little easier. She also needed a very specific set of features to ensure efficient operations from her small staff of five.
"Because we were a virtual organization, 99% of our communications were over e-mail," she said. "So, whatever we went with had to have an e-mail component."
The immediate challenge for King was to find a product to meet all her requirements yet still fit within her small budget at a time when JewishGen's staff consisted of all volunteers.
After researching four other products, King ultimately turned to FrontRange Solutions' GoldMine software with the help of Professional Edge, a Dallas-based consultancy to help JewishGen continue to straighten out its data.
One of JewishGen's first priorities was to organize its fundraising activities. This meant automatically synching up its received donations to JewishGen members.
By customizing the GoldMine application, Professional Edge helped JewishGen accomplish this goal. A data extraction tool from Dataflow was used to extract data from QuickBooks, JewishGen's accounting system. Another application, GoldBox then automatically plugged the data into a GoldMine field every night, said John Neighbors, a senior consultant at Professional Edge.
"All that fund-related information is tracked and maintained in GoldMine as well," Neighbors added. "[JewishGen] can do a certain amount of things in their accounting system, but GoldMine is the main area. Along with pulling that data in, we actually do what's considered fund allocation -- we identify which of their three main funds those particular dollars went to."
This automation lets JewishGen automatically recognize its most generous donors and offer them value-added services and benefits.
GoldMine also keeps tabs on non-financial processes, such as sending out reminders for upcoming events, or alerts on new resources -- depending on what the members list as interests in their profile.
Neighbors added, "It also has built-in extra intelligence that avoids and prevents any duplicate e-mails. There's very specific delays built that it'll only ask them certain things once every 30 days or once every 90 days."
However, sending out a few reminder e-mails was only one of JewishGen's mailing objectives. It also had extensive subscriber lists residing on an external application called Lyris, which needed to be queried and accessed. So, Professional Edge integrated Lyris, which allowed JewishGen to pull its mailing list data into GoldMine.
"At any point in time you can tell who has subscribed to what list and who has not," Neighbors said. "You've got the full history of someone's participation on a given list."
It's taken more than three years to roll out all the GoldMine-related projects, and though the bulk of it is done, JewishGen still isn't completely finished.
Still, now with more than 140,000 registered users, JewishGen is happy with GoldMine.
"What we ended up with was a totally customized system," King said. "Building it through blocks made sense to us, and it gave us what it is we need to operate this growing business of ours."