Implementation – it’s a term that has a damaged reputation from decades of technology companies failing to deliver a product on a timeline that creates lift for an organization. Sadly, across industries, many relationships turn sour before a product ever gets to drive results for end users because of mismanaged, failed, and unrealistic implementations.
Gravyty believes that organizations deserve better, and that’s why we set out on a mission to change the expectation around implementation. Our four-week implementation process recently caused Arkansas State University’s Vice Chancellor for University Advancement, Jason Penry to say, “I’ve never complimented anyone on the implementation process before, and I had to do that with Gravyty. Implementation was thorough, clear, and very simple. They are outstanding communicators, the best I’ve ever seen.”
A-State’s Jason Penry is no stranger to growing programs in short timelines. Under his leadership, A-State achieved six of its greatest giving years in the institution’s 109-year history, securing 48 of the top 100 gifts ever received. Key to these successes has been A-State’s ability to build relationships with alumni. Understanding that institutional peers significantly outsize A-State’s six full-time fundraisers, Penry looked to a partnership with Gravyty to find key efficiencies in building these relationships, at scale. Within four weeks of deciding on Gravyty as a solution, A-State implemented the technology and became a fully functional AI-enabled Advancement shop.
“I heard Elon Musk speak about the boom before the internet. He said that right before that boom, in 1994 and 1995, that you could tell it would take off. Musk said that we’re in that current stage for artificial intelligence. So, for AI, we are in that time before it ‘hockey sticks’ and really thrives. I thought that now was as good of a time as ever to partner with Gravyty,” said Penry.
A-State is the catalyst for progress in Arkansas, the Delta, and the Mid-South region. Founded in 1909, the university is comprised of 14,000 students working toward degrees in more than 150 areas of study. A-State is known as the economic and cultural engine of Northeast Arkansas, and its front-line fundraising staff - which is smaller than most of its peers - is tasked with managing relationships that inspire gifts to keep the reputation alive.
"In a resource-short environment, in order to be as effective as possible, we have to be efficient with how we allocate our time," said Penry. "After talking with The College of Charleston and Northern Kentucky University about using Gravyty and finding out what fans they were, it was an easy decision to partner and inspire more gifts that support our students and faculty."
So how did A-State implement an entire AI strategy and solution within four weeks time? Let’s have a look.
Gravyty set up a kickoff call including all of the A-State implementation stakeholders and key Gravyty team members. This call established a timeline for each phase of implementation, introduced each A-state team member to their primary Gravyty counterpart, and defined the first step for each person coming out of the call.
Penry noted that this expectation-setting allowed him to move beyond some of the fears that typically comes with a tech implementation:
“Everyone has a full plate. Most people don’t look forward to a new implementation or a new partnership. Gravyty helped us ease it along – allowed us to be aggressive, but realistically tied to an agreed timeline.”
By the end of the first week, A-State’s historical giving data was successfully uploaded to Gravyty and a successful foundation was set.
Once the historical data upload was complete, the second week of implementation focused on creating a two-way data exchange between A-State and Gravyty. During this time Gravyty’s Molly Johnson worked with A-State’s Sharon Quillman and Christy Harvey. Primarily, this group focused on ensuring that A-State was sending the right data to Gravyty, and that data returned from Gravyty was stored in the correct location within A-State’s CRM.
The third week of implementation is when we start seeing AI come to life for customers. During this week, portfolios are assigned to the team’s frontline fundraisers and top prospects are identified.
A-State also began beta testing Gravyty’s AI-enabled suite of tools with one select user to ensure it was ready for the go-live date for the full fundraising team the following week.
After one day of beta testing, Penry noted:
“The beta tester, colleague Taylor Buxbaum, did his first run with Gravyty. Unsolicited, he approached me to say how much he loves it. Taylor has experience at Arizona State, among the other places, and I really respect his feedback. Our team is eager to incorporate AI into what we do.”
Exactly four weeks from the implementation kick-off call, A-State fundraisers were up and running on Gravyty. To mark the occasion, Gravyty’s Director of Customer Success, Lisa Alvezi and Head of Implementation, Molly Johnson traveled to A-State to formally train and work with fundraisers during their first day of being an AI-enabled Advancement team.
From Zero to AI-Enabled in Four Weeks
So, is implementation still a word that comes with negative connotations? By helping organizations move from no artificial intelligence in their arsenal to entire teams of fundraisers using the technology daily within four weeks – we hope to change that.