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> “Our error rate dropped in the very first weeks. And that serious backlog? It’s gone. Now, every donation to Salesian Missions is processed on the day it’s received. No other system could have handled this."

Processing Center Manager, Salesian Missions

Salesian Missions

Even to imaging system veterans, it seemed like an impossible challenge: Process a steady stream of transactions that arrived as coins, paper currency, checks, money orders and credit-card numbers. Follow instructions written almost anywhere on return forms or as separate letters. Credit the money to any of dozens of accounts and projects. Provide proper tax information for each payment. This was the scenario ImageScan faced when it was approached by Salesian Missions for help processing donations at its New Rochelle, New York, Mission Office. More than 30,000 Salesians provide quality vocational education and other services to people in 130 countries.

Aided by lay volunteers, the Salesians work tirelessly to improve the lives of the poor through food programs, job training and small clinics, to name just a few examples. A charitable organization first and foremost, the Salesians focus on helping the poor to help themselves. The center in New Rochelle is home to one of the Salesians’ most vital organizational and administrative facilities. Staffed by "Salesians, quite a few lay persons and a tireless computer,” the center distributes information and process the wide range of donations made to the Salesians.

In the past the steady flow of donations arriving through a range of payment vehicles was increasingly complicated by a high processing error rate. “This was, in essence, a manual process shop,” says Hanna Jabbour, ImageScan’s RemitTrac® Product Manager. “That’s no surprise considering the level and complexity of data entry that was involved in the operation.” Indeed, by the time the Mission Office decided to find a true solution to its processing needs, the processing backlog was several months long. “We needed a true solution, a system that would speed our transaction flow, provide error checking and assure quality control,” recalls the processing center manager . “But even as we realized that, we didn’t know how to begin putting a solution together.”

Laying The Ground Work
As early as their first conversation, Jabbour and ImageScan’s Regional Sales Manager Eric Johnson realized Salesian Missions would not be a typical client. “Definitely, this was much different from anything else we’ve ever done,” says Jabbour. Indeed, before developing its strategy, ImageScan’s Project Team reviewed each step of the Mission’s processing operation, from the time a donation arrived from the post office until it was deposited in the bank. Led by Vice President Tim McGrail, ImageScan’s professional services staff coached the Mission on basics such as bringing in and opening its mail. “All through the project, we helped them look for ways to streamline,” says McGrail.

Meanwhile, Jabbour and Johnson brought Salesian’s staff members to trade shows, and even put them in touch with competitors. The point, says Johnson, was to educate the processing center manager and her colleagues about the nuances of the different systems available to them. the processing center manager realized that although her center essentially acted as a retail processing operation, it needed the solid data-entry and forms processing capabilities of a wholesale processor. “Only ImageScan offers a solution that gives us both,” she says. Indeed, ImageScan’s RemitTrac® wholetail lockbox system proved to be the only option that could meet the Mission’s unusual requirements. And because RemitTrac® is installed in the wholetail processing centers of some of the world’s largest banks, ImageScan could show off the system running through its paces in a number of configurations. Since ImageScan supports a wide range of scanning hardware, and is pledged to maintain this advantage as hardware advances, it was clear to the processing center manager that RemitTrac® offered the best solution for both the near and long terms.

Bringing Order
When Jabbour and Johnson first visited New Rochelle, the Salesians’ processing was seriously backlogged. While ImageScan had implemented solutions at centers handling a greater volume of transactions, no one to Jabbour’s knowledge had ever tackled such a complex and rapidly changing mix of payment types. “They have people sending them five dollars a month designated for a specific school in specific country,” he says. “And that’s just one example.” Often, donation coupons arrive with handwritten instructions, or tucked into letters detailing the giver’s intentions. But the challenge goes deeper than that: Every new fundraising effort — and the Salesians launch new campaigns continuously — might require a new and different remittance coupon, or no coupon at all. Yet, the payments must be processed accurately and quickly to keep the Mission’s charitable and education efforts running smoothly.

The solution ImageScan developed included RemitTrac® running on a client-server platform, managing a complete, two-pass image workflow. For payment transport, the company installed state-of-the-art NCR machines with a capacity that allows plenty of room for growth. While the implementation was being performed, McGrail’s professional services group conducted numerous training sessions both on-site and off to educate the Mission’s staff about the best practices available to processing operations. “Really, this project is a testament to the professional services group’s work,” observes Johnson. The results of the project became apparent quickly: “Our error rate dropped in the very first weeks,” says the processing center manager. And that serious backlog? It’s gone. Now, every donation to Salesian Missions is processed on the day it’s received. No other system could have handled this,” says the processing center manager. “ImageScan wasn’t the cheapest solution. But they were the true one.”