Friday, September 28, 2012

Customer Tips From... Scott Alessandro (MIT - Sloan School of Management)

The third edition of our customer tips series is brought to you by Scott Alessandro, Associate Director of Sloan Educational Services at MIT's Sloan School of Management. Scott is a long-time and avid Veera user who has been very creative with his applications of the software. Here are his tips: 

1. You are able to remap your data files by clicking on the connection icon either under the connections menu or in the job on the actual file. When I first started using Veera, I was afraid to move files around as it would break connections. Now I know better.  

2. Use the Find DeDup or Remove Dup node when you are working with a data file for the first time. You will be surprised how often duplicate records exist in data files (well, really we should not be surprised, but sometimes are).

3. With the output node, you can check or uncheck the columns you want to include. This is especially useful when you are using transform or merge nodes. I like to keep all of the columns throughout my job and then only select out the relevant ones in the output node. Helps you to keep track of what you are doing within a job (especially also if you create a ‘test’ output you move around the job).

4. Use ‘Set Run Order’ when you have multiple outputs in a job or a job that relies on one output to run another output. Akin to that, in the Merge node, you can also change the order that files are merged together by right clicking on the file number. Since I like to merge a lot of different files together, it is useful to be able to change the merge order especially if you add files later. 

5. Right click on a job to make a copy and then paste it onto the workspace.

6. In Cleanse, can multi-select columns and run the same type of cleanse, rather than selecting each column individually. 
7. Use the Rename node to re-order columns.

...Have tips of your own? Email them to!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Customer Tips From... Dan Wilson (Muskingum University)

Our next set of customer tips comes from Dan Wilson, Registrar at Muskingum University. Dan typically uses Veera for repetitive and/or complex reports, including multi-year enrollment history by date, historical majors and minors (by year and department), and IPEDS reporting. Here are his tips:

1. It is important to remember the merge characteristics (all from a, all from b, all from both, only matching, etc.) so the last thing I do in developing any report is to verify each of these. 

2. While Veera's CrossTab feature is quite useful, I find it easier and more familiar to output my results to a target excel file, and then have another excel spreadsheet with my pivot table that has all of the formatting and other features set up. That way I can update the data file without overwriting my formatted "results" file. The same can be done with separate sheets in a file, but some of my reporting files pull data from different queries and Veera reports. For those reports I can run data from several sources, then open up my main file and hit "refresh". 

3. For those instances when a transform looks like a computer program, I'll break it into smaller bits and spread it out over several nodes. This allows me to test smaller chunks of the function at a time and locate any errant code prior to needing valium. (Editor's note: using the de-bugger in the Transform node can also help to find errors quickly!)

...Have tips of your own? Email them to!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Fundraising: The Art

As much as my analytic brain would love to be able to classify the world into black and white binaries, sometimes this division is just not possible. Such is the case with fundraising. As important as prospect and donor research are, just knowing which prospects are statistically most likely to give to your institution does not mean that they will automatically give the amount you predict, when you predict it. Other factors, such as the relationship between the donor and institution and the way in which appeals and touches are made, have a heavy impact on how much and how often a donor chooses to give. My personal role in the fundraising spectrum has been on the analytics side, helping customers build models identifying which prospects are most likely to donate. This August, I was given an opportunity to learn about the other half of the process during APRA’s Data Analytics Symposium.

The thing that resonated most with me was Penelope Burk’s tenets of donor-centered fundraising. She says that donors want:

I. Prompt and meaningful acknowledgement for their gift(s);
II. To know specifically where the money will go;
III. To be updated on the progress of projects they donate to.

Let’s look at these in a little more detail, shall we?

Donors want to be thanked soon after their gift is received.  This thank you should be personalized and delivered in a way that’s meaningful to the contributor.

Donors want to know which fund, building, scholarship, or project their money will be used for. Allocating donor dollars to a specific project is helpful both for the donor and the institution they are donating to; for example, when a gift officer is touching base with the donor, they can focus on project-specific updates, rather than simply speaking to the value of the institution overall.

Donors like being updated on the projects they’ve donated to. They want to know how far along a project is, an expected completion date, and when the project hits major milestones. The key here is communication. The more you communicate with a donor, the more involved and appreciated they feel, and the more likely they are to give again. Most of all, donors want to be sure that their money is making a difference.

One of the reasons that donor-centered fundraising has become so important is that the climate of fundraising is changing. Rather than giving smaller dollar amounts to a wide variety of institutions, donors are trending towards whittling down the number of different institutions, but increasing the dollar amounts given to each. For this reason, it is important to acknowledge and update each individual donor to cultivate gifts.

I think one key take-away message of donor-centered fundraising is exactly that: it’s donor-centered. The communication between fundraiser and donor should be keyed in to the needs and expectations of the donor on an individual level. Secondly, there should be lots of communication (especially in the form of updates) between these two parties. If all of the above criteria are met, the donor should have a good feeling about their gifts, feel appreciated for giving, and continue to give. 

-Caitlin Garrett, Statistical Analyst at Rapid Insight

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Customer Tips From... Dr. Loralyn Taylor (Paul Smith's College)

Our new customer tips series will feature tips from customers on using either of our software applications. Each entry will focus on one customer’s ideas to make your lives easier.

We’re kicking things off with Dr. Loralyn Taylor, from Paul Smith’s College. Dr. Taylor is a one-woman IR office and Registrar and is constantly looking for ways to save time when creating reports and executing jobs. Here are her five tips:
  1.  Take the time to rename your nodes so that you can easily follow your line of thought as you move through the job.
  2. Remember that there are multiple ways of doing things. The shortest is not always the best – to me it is often more important to be able to easily follow my thought on how I am working through the problem than to do it elegantly in the fewest number of nodes.
  3. Common problems to check for: data format incompatibility (just use a convert node), and sometimes a null is not actually a null (just because something looks blank doesn’t mean that it is).
  4. Remember that creating a job is like solving a puzzle; you have to think about it and play with it.
  5. I often have to run jobs many times to get them right. Helpful tip: Set up a test data output that you can move around to different parts of the job to see how your data is coming through at different points when you are troubleshooting. 

...Have tips of your own? Email them to!