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Talk | Daniel Wood, University of Alabama

Updated: Mar 29

The video of Daniel's Talk is in your LiveAlumni Helpdesk under

"LiveAlumni Blogs, Talks, and Webinars"


This Talk features Daniel Wood, Director of IT, Division of Advancement, at the University of Alabama. Daniel uses the Blackbaud CRM and has successfully loaded LiveAlumni data and employment changes for the last 3 years. Today he shares relevant importing and data-structuring tips with the LiveALumni community.


Important Highlights:

  • Pandemic: Laying the foundation beforehand was Daniel's key to success

  • Daniel’s Stages for importing LiveAlumni data to Blackbaud

  • The different challenges of importing employer organization information

  • Creating employment records for complex organizational structures

  • How to handle Matching Gifts communications with your donors

  • Following young alumni who have little notion of “change in address”

  • Different perspectives for using LinkedIn Url’s

Pandemic Challenges


The 2020 Pandemic posed challenges for everyone, and Daniel shares how their struggle to adapt was minimized because they had previously prioritized a digitized process by implementing various digital platforms like improved electronic fundraising, virtual gift agreements and e-receiving, etc. All of these pre-COVID changes allowed for a seamless transition from working office to work at home.


This discussion leans towards the technical side, and Daniel answers specific questions about Blackbaud CRM’s dashboard capability, embedding dashboards for consumption, and dealing with double authentication.


Importing Alumni Data into Blackbaud CRM


Daniel shares the steps his team follows for importing LiveAlumni data to Blackbaud:

  1. LinkedIn URL

  2. Organization Records and their metadata: ie industry, number of employees

  3. Employment data Import Stages

  4. Import alumni with both Constituent ID’s and Organization Matches

  5. Import those with no existing employment data

  6. Pin new employment data to actual employment record so the most recent employment is Primary


The group talks a lot about importing Organization Data and Daniel offers advice on the complexities of creating organizational records, especially when dealing with larger companies that have multiple divisions and subsidiaries like banks and power companies. Also challenging, are the pros and cons of potentially creating dual relationships with donors as free text vs unique records. Creating the relationship is ideal but there are often time constraints as well as limitations to the number of records a system con store. Keeping an organization name standard throughout a CRM is difficult and introducing fuzzy logic is one way to improve on this.


Alumni Data Sources


The following are among the many resources used by the participants of this Talk, for updating alumni data.

  1. LiveAlumni

  2. Blackbaud data enrichment services

  3. LexusNexus

  4. Even scraping house values from Zillow to help vet and validate prospects based on house values.

Matching Records


When Names simply do not return a reliable match to a Constituent ID, Daniel shares that the combination of LiveAlumni’s 3 tiered matching system and his BlackBaud internal matching algorithm has proven highly effective. But there will always be the “John Smith’s” with no apparent relationships that will require a lot of tedious manual research. The good news is that once you match a Name, it will be matched forever.


Sometimes matching is difficult because LinkedIn data is incorrect. This is one of the downfalls of self-reported data, but obvious inconsistencies are often easily spotted and can be quickly removed. “Entrepreneur” or “Self Employed” titles are the least reliable employment data points, but corporate employment that is linked to an actual organization is fairly clean.


Pro Tips


Some other unique ideas shared today are:

  • For poorly kept databases, use the Prospect Tab as a stopgap measure to put important indicators on alumni

  • Use a time plot to best graph career paths within multiple records of work experiences

  • From an institutional perspective, use LinkedIn Url’s to track a student’s profile to feed into first destination survey’s and / or program outcomes

  • Follow younger alumni through their careers by what the various data points in LinkedIn might reveal about them. It will be more effective than using the parents' address to reach out to them

University of Alabama & Long Term Planning with LiveAlumni


Daniel ends by talking about the University of Alabama's long-term planning for LiveAlumni. Once the matching and importing phase is complete, they plan to introduce the platform across campus, beginning with their fundraisers. Their reasoning is that it will be easier for those end-users to create the reports with updated data points directly in LiveAlumni rather than in their CRM.


Advancement and Career Services have different goals but share the same data sets so he wants to bring on the Career Service team on as well.


Want to watch more LiveAlumni Talks?


Daniel is just one of many inspiring members of the LiveAlumni community who have been sharing their strategies on alumni data, importing and LiveAlumni. If you’d like to learn more you can (1) register to attend one of our future Talks or (2) watch recordings of past Talks.


For more LiveAlumni Talks, click here.

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