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Tech syndicate on track

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By Todd Cohen

A syndicate has met its goal of raising $4 million to develop back-office technology for community foundations, and is moving ahead with its first project and gearing up for others.

The syndicate’s Technology Steering Committee has selected Security Trust Co. in Phoenix to connect its members’ accounting systems electronically to their investment managers or custodians.

The project, which will use Security Trust’s FoundationPartner product, is the first of six the syndicate will develop with the money it has raised, said Carla Dearing, CEO of Community Foundations of America in Louisville, Ky., a steering committee partner.

The new product, which will replace what typically is a manual process, will let community foundations give their donors online access to up-to-date information about the value and investment performance of their funds.

The syndicate’s next project will be to create an “open interface” that can serve as the “architectural framework” for making internet-based improvements to existing or “legacy” accounting systems at community foundations without changing the systems themselves, Dearing said.

Roughly 85 percent of community foundations use accounting systems created by NPO Solutions in Concord, N.H., she said, and roughly another 5 percent use systems created by Blackbaud in Charleston, S.C.

The new project will let community foundations continue to use those systems, Dearing said, and will make it easy to move data into and out of them so it can be used in new functions that community foundations increasingly want, such as managing relationships with donors, merging email, administering events and matching donors with programs they care about.

“We will build to the future but not force a change in the legacy systems until that’s warranted,” said Sid Hartman, chair of the Technology Steering Committee and vice president of finance and administration at the Marin Community Foundation in Novato, Calif.

Future syndicate projects will focus on developing stand-alone systems to handle customer-relationship-management, automated processing and reporting, donor-matching and event-management.

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