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"Salesforce was the only solution that offered a fundraising option and also the ability to deploy across the university." - Cheryl Cerny, Senior Director of Information Management and Research, WPI

WPI builds connections and relationships through Salesforce

For 20 years, Cheryl Cerny has been constrained by the usability and scalability limitations of fundraising systems. It was the same at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), where she’s Assistant Vice President of Advancement Operations. University Advancement, which focuses on alumni relations and philanthropy, used a fundraising management system built to track constituent transactions. “Getting data in was no problem, but to easily turn that data into a story of that alumnus or company was just not possible,” Cerny says. “It was clunky and forced everyone to work offline on spreadsheets and in their own silos.” That lack of easy access to quality data impacted the office’s efforts to convert donor opportunities.

Meanwhile, the Academic and Corporate Engagement (ACE) office used an older solution for CRM and another solution for marketing—and neither offered cloud capabilities. When student conversion specialists emailed prospective students, they had to copy and paste information from one tab in a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet to another tab and into the email recipient box. “It wasn’t an operationally efficient system,” says Brian Degon, Director of Business Systems. Both departments were seeking a new CRM system that would let them share information and included cloud capability. They found it with Salesforce.

A Perfect Fit

WPI investigated 10 CRM solutions, then demoed three. “Our end-users felt more comfortable with the Salesforce look, feel, and layout,” Cerny says. “They could navigate around with little training.” The departments deployed the new CRM on the Salesforce platform for the 2014-15 year, with Sales Cloud and several add-ons, including roundCorner’s Advancement Connect. ACE is using Sales Cloud to track opportunities to partner with corporations and collect and maintain detailed records as a prospective student progresses to an enrolled student. Both Pardot for marketing automation and Wave Analytics for in-depth reporting incorporate data from Sales Cloud.

The Donor Relations team uses Salesforce to track donor stewardship activities. Fundraisers use Opportunities to track engagement efforts. The Advancement Operations team uses dashboards for fundraiser metrics and coaching and data quality management, and hopes to soon use them for constituent engagement tracking. “We use the functionality intended for sales groups right out of the box,” Cerny says. “We have the same needs as a sales team, and Salesforce really streamlines portfolio management. Our fundraisers can focus on building relationships.” Fundraisers are also using mobile app Salesforce Mobile. “They love being able to look up people on the fly and use voiceto-text to input their tasks and events,” Cerny says.

And WPI has taken advantage of Salesforce Premier Plus. “We don’t always have funding to send staff off-site for training sessions,” Cerny says. “To have that library of resources available has been great. We also love having the full sandbox and extra storage.” With Salesforce, technology is no longer a limiter, Cerny says. “It makes us more agile. It’s intuitive. We can build out a new object or add a field and make it our own.”

Sharing Data and Saving Time

Departments are connected through Salesforce in ways they weren’t before and there’s a new level of transparency. ACE is saving 40 hours or more a month on data entry. Prospect information can be quickly routed to sales people, emails are automated, and student conversion specialists don’t waste time copying and pasting. “One of the key benefits is information sharing and data availability,” Degon says. “Our corporate relationship managers can see each other’s work, so when the Career Development Center gets a call from a corporation, they can see previous interactions with that company.”

The immediate availability of shared data means University Advancement is better able to collaborate with other divisions, easily identify individuals or organizations that could potentially fund opportunities on campus, and retrieve a 360-degree view of its constituents. Users don’t spend time clicking through multiple screens to view a constituent record; and because of the simplified, unified system, Cerny’s team has easily identified data issues it would have missed previously.

Salesforce is impacting students, too. With the new student service dashboards, student success managers can more easily monitor and help the 125 or so students they’re responsible for. The results: The new online graduate student count increased more than 25 percent in fall 2017, and the student return rate has increased 4 percent yearover-year. For Cerny, Salesforce is a flexible solution that’s great for any higher ed institution. “You’re not locked in to what the vendor thinks you need, and there are a lot of partners and schools building on it, so there’s a great user group to help.”


In 2017, WPI’s Undergraduate Enrollment Services deployed Salesforce to unite disparate data systems used by the Undergraduate Admissions and Financial Aid offices. “We moved to Salesforce to get that functionality of everything in one place and to manage relationships and track communications more efficiently,” says Adam Epstein, Director of Undergraduate Enrollment Services. “We want to bring people together.” Salesforce brought them that unity and shored up inefficiencies. Within 10 days of deployment, users were saving at least an hour a day on data entry, extraction, and manipulation. “But the real story is how we enhance our interactions with our customers, building a community with strong, enduring relationships.”

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