During my first year at EverTrue, I remember working for over 11 months to get one of our higher education customers ready to use the EverTrue platform. Their contract renewal was coming up, and we were worried. Why would a customer pay us again if they hadn’t even used the product yet? I tentatively asked them if they were concerned, expecting to be met by a demand for extension or, worse, cancellation. Here’s what they said:
“Are you kidding? We’ve never done anything this fast before. It’s been wonderful to get going so quickly.”
From that, you might conclude that despite all the effort in the world, the expectations of a startup like EverTrue would forever be at odds with those of your large educational institution or nonprofit.
Fast forward to the present day, when Mike Reopell, Director of Advancement Information Services at Williams College, gave us this amazing nugget:
“This was one of the easiest and most well-documented onboarding experiences I’ve encountered in my many years.”
In fact, we’ve been able to reduce our average onboarding time to around 30 days. Here are five easy* ways we’ve accelerated our onboarding process.
*Disclaimer: Steps not actually easy.
1. Dedicate a Great Team to Onboarding
Jenna Berkowitz and Chelsea Leavitt, our dedicated onboarding specialists, provide modern EverTrue implementation experiences for the discerning advancement professional. Jenna learned her trade while working for the MIT Annual Fund, and Chelsea applies her skills from implementing IT projects at HandsOn Tech.
Even with a completely automated product onboarding process, users and customer staff will have questions and stumbling blocks. Our onboarding team is there to guide everyone towards the best possible use of the product.
Jenna and Chelsea do a fabulous job, artfully working with all the education CRMs: The Raiser’s Edge, Blackbaud CRM, Advance, Ellucian, Colleague/Datatel, Salesforce, Millennium, and a dozen others.
In addition to delighting customers, as a product manager trying to figure out how to best delight advancement services teams, I find their insights to be invaluable. If Jenna and Chelsea say it’s a problem, it’s a problem.
2. Set and Meet Expectations
I find that if I have a full day to complete a task, it will somehow end up taking the whole day. If I have a smaller slice of time (like taking out the garbage when the truck is only a few houses away, and I’m also late for a commuter rail train), it gets done much faster.
So, during our sales process—and upon handoff to our onboarding team—we reinforce the expected timeline. We also try to make it clear that the pace is completely up to them—we’ll move as fast as they do.
However, if a team doesn’t think they can set aside a few hours over the next couple weeks to set up EverTrue, that raises a red flag to us that they might need additional help, or that we might not have the right people involved.
3. Get The Data Team Involved Early
We usually need help from a customer’s data or advancement services team. As keepers of the data and ETL tools, they are essential partners.
Data teams work best when they are active stakeholders in their projects. We noticed that customers who just brought “the data people” in after the contract was signed had a longer, more challenging onboarding experience.
So, we now make sure to involve the advancement services team during the sales process. This helps address concerns as early as possible. We also hope it lets us show the data team that we’ve done a lot of the hard work and that they only need to budget a couple of days rather than several weeks or months of work.
It also helps customers get a head start on how they might want to use the platform and to answer those pesky “do soft credits belong in lifetime giving?” questions before the data team rolls up their sleeves.
4. Have Great Documentation
A Google Spreadsheet is a great place to keep rough drafts, but EverTrue is growing up. This spring, we launched the first version of our data documentation.
5. Make Easy Buttons
How about some quick market share stats?
Not only has The Raiser’s Edge gobbled up big chunks of the market, but it is also a stable and consistent database. So, we built REDS, the Raiser’s Edge Data Shuttle. It takes about 30 minutes to install and takes a big bite out of our customers’ onboarding time.
Ellucian is the big player in higher education, and under its umbrella are Advance, Banner, and Colleague. Moreover, Ellucian customers almost always use a data warehouse, business intelligence, or ETL tool to send data to EverTrue.
While we’d love to build a data shuttle for all these options, our best practice is to support the data team and watch them do their magic. They’re the pros, after all, and we’ve seen perfect CSV files come in with only a few tips from our team.
Is there another vendor you work with that knocked your socks off, in a good way? Let’s Disqus!