Save the Children USA is the leading independent organization creating lasting change for children in the USA and around the world. For 75 years, they have helped children survive and thrive by improving their health, education and economic opportunities and, in times of acute crisis, mobilizing rapid life-saving assistance. Save the Children USA used LANSA to provide integration and extensions to its Synon-based core donor systems and to rebuild its Sponsorship Web site, which now includes content management by users, donor self-service and PDF Welcome Kit generation.
Associate VP for Sponsor and Entry Donor Marketing, Denise Kuendig says, "Giving visitors to our site more control of their experience as a prospect or sponsor has greatly improved our service capabilities. That ultimately translates to helping us meet our goal of doing more for children in communities where we work."
Giving visitors to our site more control of their experience as a prospect or sponsor has greatly improved our service capabilities
- The Challenge
- Sponsorship Web Site
- Uploading Electronic Feeds
- Other LANSA Usage
- Company and System Information
Save the Children USA is a member of the International Save the Children Alliance, a global network of 28 independent Save the Children organizations working to ensure the well-being and protection of children in more than 120 countries. Save the Children national organizations in the US, UK, Norway, Sweden and Australia are the largest in volume of donations.
In fiscal year 2007, Save the Children USA spent 90 percent of all expenditures on program services. Ninety percent is an average for all of Save the Children's programs worldwide; the percentage spent in a particular program may vary. Save the Children USA has been recognized by several institutions for excellence in financial and organizational accountability and has consistently received a four star Charity Navigator rating (the highest achievable) many years in a row.
The Save the Children Alliance members are fairly independent in selecting programs and collecting donations, but work together to have a unified approach in delivering help in the field. The Alliance also runs selective programs on a global scale, such as the "Re-Write the Future" program, which aims to minimize disruption in the education of children that live in conflict areas, who often see their already limited chance on schooling even further reduced.
To widen its marketing and selling reach to prospective donors, it is important for Save the Children USA to offer easy access to available sponsorship programs on its own Web site, as well as to provide easy integration with information from third party fund raisers and events.
But up to a few years ago Save the Children USA was hampered in doing so by limitations in its IT architecture. Its Web site had facilities to view available sponsorship programs and register as a sponsor, but was hard to maintain and lacked self-service functionality. For example, if donors wanted to change their details they had to call into Donor Services. Preparing and printing Welcome Kits and charitable receipts required a lot of manual steps as well.
The site had become very static and Save the Children USA no longer had the skill-set in-house to maintain the site. A more dynamic solution that users could maintain themselves, without the help of a programmer, was needed.
Save the Children USA uses several systems and platforms to manage its donations, sponsorship programs, field office information and financials. The core donor and sponsorship information system is Synon 2E based and in-house developed in the mid-1990s. The system contains a huge amount of information and business rules that need to be reused by other systems, including the Sponsorship Web site.
Save the Children USA had already used LANSA to extend and integrate its core donor system with additional logic and decided to use WAMs, Visual LANSA and LANSA Integrator for its new Sponsorship Web site, for Web content management and for generating PDF Welcome kits and charitable receipts.
We needed a more dynamic solution that users could maintain themselves, without the help of a programmer
Sponsorship Web Site
Save the Children USA's new Sponsorship Web site was built with LANSA's Web Application Modules (WAMs). The actual Web content, text and images are stored in files that are maintained by end users, using a content management system that was also built with the same LANSA XML- and XSL-based technology.
With the LANSA platform, prospective child sponsors can now view children who are in need of a sponsor, what country they are from and their age. With the advanced search function, they can choose specific criteria to identify a child to sponsor. LANSA is also used to securely authorize credit card payments.
Child safety is one of Save the Children USA's primary concerns, so the site limits the number of child profiles viewable per session and enforces timeouts. This strikes the right balance between maintaining the dignity of children who have applied for a sponsor and giving supporters access to a personal, customized online application.
The site gives each sponsor a password-protected personalized homepage, with a picture of the sponsored child, where they live, their birthday, personality traits, daily activities and other details. When a sponsor supports more than one child, multiple homepages can be selected from a drop-down box.
Using Synon APIs, the LANSA programs reuse tables and rules from the core donor system that determine the child in greatest need, making sure that children in greatest need are displayed with priority on the Web site and are easy to search for.
The site lets sponsors view and print a PDF of their official charitable tax deduction receipt online using LANSA Integrator. The sponsor can also download a template to write a letter or email the sponsored child via the local field office.
LANSA Integrator is used to manage and process various donor communications, including the Digital Case History solution, which contains about 30 templates used to generate PDF welcome kits for donors. The templates are maintained by end users in the sponsorship department, avoiding the need for programmers to get involved if changes to the text are needed.
The child related information is managed by Save the Children USA's Windows-based Assist system, which maintains all the information about the children, their parents, how many brothers and sisters they have, where they live, what school programs they are involved with, and so on. A small subset of this information is kept on the System i and, once a child is sponsored, is linked to the donor. For sponsored children, the donor ID is also kept in the Assist system, so there is two-way integration.
For each new sponsorship, the LANSA application determines the appropriate template, depending on factors such as the child's age and country, and sources the information from the System i and a photo of the child from the Windows based Assist system.
The Welcome Kit contains a lot of information, such as confirmation of the sponsor's details, child or project specific information, how to get in touch with the child and so on.
Printing that information and putting the kit together manually used to be complex and time consuming. "Now the Welcome Kit is generated automatically, it could be sent electronically if the sponsor wants, saving time and effort," says Lee Steuber, Deputy Chief Technology Officer and Applications Director at Save the Children USA.
Now the Welcome Kit is generated automatically, saving time and effort
Uploading Electronic Feeds
Save the Children USA receives data from various sources for various projects, which may include new and updated donor contact and commitment details. LANSA was used to build a system to upload and process this data, which is received in fixed file, CSV, tab delimited and many other formats. The upload system has a modular, parameter-driven design that uses workflow and data mapping components to provide a flexible, self-documenting interface to the core donor system.
Visual LANSA was used to create the user-interface components and backend processing is done by LANSA iSeries functions and Synon APIs.
Using five basic components, the system can be set up to perform a variety of functions, such as data validation, duplicate donor checking and resolution, donor creation, and donation and commitment processing; with all transactions integrated as required into the core Synon-based donor system.
Christine Lay, Business Analyst and Project Leader, explains that they spend a lot of time resolving duplicate donors once they are in the system, so preventing a duplicate getting into the system saves time and money. Validating canvassing commitments for duplications and mapping the data submitted by vendor to the values required for the donor database and creating financial transaction and canvasser logs has saved the sponsorship department an estimated two hours a day during first year of use.
Upload files can be utilized for very high volume campaigns, such as collections for the Boxing Day Tsunami and events like 'American Idol Gives Back', where people can make donations via toll-free lines and the Internet.
Steuber adds an interesting anecdote about a quite unusual upload example. "Two years ago we had a 'Caps for the Capital' program where we wanted to advocate international financial assistance from the United States. We wanted to do this by having people knit baby caps, to emphasize that something as simple as keeping a baby's head warm for the first few days after birth dramatically improves chances of survival. We were going to take these caps to the various congressmen to make a statement. Since it was our 75th anniversary we were aiming for 75,000 baby caps. But we received well over 380,000 caps with mostly handwritten tags. We were overwhelmed with them. It took the second floor of a whole wing in our building. And all these caps and donors had to be registered in our system. We worked with a large number of volunteers to enter the data in spreadsheets. Then we processed all these spreadsheets in the Upload system, avoiding the need to rekey any data in the core donor system."
Validating canvassing commitments has saved the sponsorship department an estimated two hours a day during first year of use
Other LANSA Usage
LANSA is used for several extensions to the core donor system. For example, when business required more detailed account distribution information for reporting and analysis, the system had to accommodate a new account hierarchy structure. LANSA was used to develop the account hierarchy maintenance & inquiry programs, and also to perform the account distribution during the posting process.
LANSA's end user query tool, LANSA Client, is used to analyze sponsor data and get an insight in matters such as the demographics of its sponsors, duration of sponsorships, campaign results, and so on. Previously, end-user reporting was only possible in a data warehouse that was updated weekly. Using LANSA Client, end-users can produce queries and reports over the live donor database, as needed.
After making the Synon 2E files and relationships known to the LANSA Repository (which is shared by all LANSA tools), Visual LANSA's Graphical Modeler was used to generate a data diagram of the donor system, which has been very helpful for new staff working with the system.
We have increased the self-sufficiency of the end users in the sponsorship department
"With LANSA we doubled the number of our people who can do development on a project. LANSA V11 was easy to learn for our PC developers who are familiar with VB and Delphi. PC developers instantly feel familiar with Visual LANSA. This means we have more flexibility on who can be assigned to which project," concludes Lay.
"One advantage of extending and integrating the donor system with LANSA using APIs, is that we can reuse the core logic that has been functioning for over 10 years and is already tried and tested. We get the best of both worlds by combining the ease-of-use and quick development capabilities of LANSA with the extensive business rules and complex logic in our legacy systems."
"LANSA has been of particular benefit to the sponsorship department," concludes Steuber. "We have increased the attractiveness of the Sponsorship Web site and given more control to sponsors and prospective sponsors."
"We have also increased the self-sufficiency of the end users in the sponsorship department. They don't have to wait for a developer to update the Web site. Using the content management system they can change the text and images on the Web site themselves and by altering a template they can also change the way a letter or Welcome Kit is phrased. Having that business department self-sufficient improves ROI as well."
Company and System Information
- Save the Children USA, based in Westport, Connecticut, is a member of the International Save the Children Alliance, a global network of 28 independent Save the Children organizations working to ensure the well-being and protection of children in more than 120 countries. For 75 years, Save the Children USA has been helping children survive and thrive by improving their health, education and economic opportunities and, in times of acute crisis, mobilizing rapid life-saving assistance to help children recover from the effects of war, conflict and natural disasters.
- For more information visit: www.savethechildren.org
- Save the Children USA uses a System i model 520.