John Carroll University (JCU), a Catholic liberal arts institution outside of Cleveland,Ohio with some 3,500 students signed-on with GivePulse in the spring of 2017 with an anticipated launch in fall 2017. Their transition to GivePulse entailed moving from a custom-coded database that was difficult to navigate, hard to work with, and was quickly becoming obsolete for their expanding needs and level of student engagement.
In planning for a successful transition to GivePulse, they developed an integrated implementation plan and worked closely with a variety of key stakeholders at the University to make sure they would be ready to go live for fall 2017. Now after a successful launch and a full academic year of use by students, faculty, and staff, the director of the Center for Service and Social Action at JCU, Katherine Feely, SND, shares her five tips for success and other helpful hints when thinking about your own transition to GivePulse.
- Work closely with your IT department – Review the technical dimensions of the product, including data security, firewalls, scripts needed to run, and the data interface with your student information system. Involve your IT team every step of the way. Enlist their support to migrate the data from your previous platform.
- Test the Data – Before doing anything test the integrity of your existing data to make sure you have everything you need. Identify the essential fields that will be migrated over and match them to the appropriate fields in GivePulse. JCU migrated test data first, comparing that data to their “reliable and verified” data and checked for errors. JCU found key data elements that needed to be re-uploaded, fields that didn’t match up, and scripts that had to be adjusted. Once satisfied, we proceeded full-force with the data migration.
- Training, Training, Training! Train every staff member. JCU trained all summer before going live (even those who didn’t necessarily need to know the new platform). Work together as a team so everyone understands the platform. Create a training plan with step-by-step instructions to make sure key stakeholders understand the new platform before going live. Create “test” events, registrations, activities, partners, courses, etc. so you can understand how to navigate each one. Staff members should navigate the site as a student user in order to understand navigation from their perspective.
- Utilize the GivePulse Team – Periodic Zoom calls to GivePulse are a great way to go over various features if you can’t understand a feature on our own. JCU staff would explore different features, gather questions in summarized format, and email them in advance to the GivePulse team, then we would work through the questions during our calls. By working together in the actual platform and gaining a greater understanding of the architecture and capabilities of GivePulse, we could gain the confidence we needed to launch and avoid the pitfalls of ignorance.
- Monitor the Roll Out – Have all eyes on roll-out when going live and catch things early! At JCU we had 600 to 700 students registering for academic service-learning placements during the course of four days. We knew that if we were going to fail, we were going to fail big. We had a few early registration roll outs with targeted courses to make sure all would work as hoped. During these first few days, we were in close touch with GivePulse to troubleshoot and their team was amazing! Their responsiveness and assistance made a huge difference – that was part of the success.
- Moving away from a complicated custom-coded database, we had to figure out what we really needed to keep, and what we didn’t.
- We really had to learn a whole different language and a way of engaging with the registration process. It could be challenging at times, but it was totally worth it.
- Personnel changes! We lost our database staff member just before the migration started, making it a huge challenge, but it forced me as director to really get in the weeds and learn about GivePulse from the inside out.
Getting Buy-In from Stakeholders
- Schedule meetings with your various stakeholders to showcase what GivePulse can do. We provided presentations to various departments and decision-makers, showing them how they would benefit from using the platform, and how it could ease their workload.
- Meet with your director of IT and some team members. We conferenced with the GivePulse team so we could clear up as many technical questions about data integration, security, etc. With their support, everything went very smoothly.
- After completing the first full academic year with GivePulse, we met with our IT director and the team to thank them for their support, and to show them what a difference GivePulse made in our work, data analytics, and in providing an excellent student experience. They appreciated seeing how their hard work and input mattered in advancing the mission of the University.
What Would I Do Differently
- Not very much. We had a full year of lead time, and we needed it. Migrate early over the summer – not in August.
GivePulse is a great platform. It was an excellent choice and has such robust capacity that we are so glad we made the switch. We would never think about going back to the risk and headache of a custom-coded database when we have such a great platform and a team of technical and higher education civic engagement experts partnering with us at GivePulse.
Schedule a call with the GivePulse higher education team to discuss best practices for your own transition to GivePulse!
Katherine Feely, SND
Center for Service & Social Action
John Carroll University