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Welcome to the University Advancement

CRM Transformation Project 

What This Is

This is a OneUVA project, envisioned by our executive sponsor Julie Featherstone, recommended by the University Advancement Technology Steering Committee, and approved by Mark Luellen. The project will serve the entire UVA Advancement Community.  

A CRM is a constituent (or customer) relationship management system. We have chosen Salesforce as our CRM platform. To meet the specific needs of advancement professionals, we selected UC Innovation’s ascend product; it is built on Salesforce specifically for advancement work. 

Our existing database of record, Advance, will be obsolete by 2026; its underlying technology is old and creates additional work for everyone. Moving to a modern CRM allows us to improve and streamline business processes and work within a modular technology ecosystem and provide stability and flexibility into the future.  Our goal is to have advancement staff from all functional areas following simpler business processes, using Salesforce and ascend, and accessing more accurate, complete, and timely data. 

ascend is our new CRM, a Salesforce application specific to advancement work. ascend sits on top of Salesforce. Salesforce has many applications, including Marketing Cloud and Tableau. A helpful analogy is to think of Salesforce as a mobile phone and ascend as an app on that phone.

Graphic explaining UCI-ascend

Who’s Working on It 

The CRM Leadership Team collaborates closely with UC Innovation (the vendor and product owner of ascend), Zuri Group (our implementation partner), and hundreds of subject matter experts (SMEs) from across the UVA Advancement Community who help inform decisions about the future state. Individuals from more than 30 fundraising units have engaged with the project contributing through various means such as functional sprint meetings, validating test data, providing input and feedback, and participating in related communities of practice, standing committees, or task forces. We value your involvement and know engaging stakeholders early and often leads to the best outcome. 


Our Plan

This project began its silent phase in Spring 2022. We will go live with Phase 1, replacing Advance with ascend, in Summer 2025.

Graphic showing ellucian advance to salesforce crm transition

Our project plan includes a series of sprints, each focusing on specific aspects of the CRM transformation (e.g., how it functions for end users, how data from Advance is converted into ascend, how it integrates data from other technology tools, how you can pull out data, etc.).

As of January 2023, we are working on Prospect Research and Prospect Management topics; this work will continue through June 2024. Future sprints will focus on Permissions and Backlog items (outstanding decisions or issues to resolve before the Go-live phase). We have made biographic, demographic, gift, pledge, stewardship, and endowment data decisions, and related data conversion and integration work is under way.

Later in the project, once we have enough test data to work with, user acceptance testing will be done to ensure the system performs the way we expected. Concurrently with the CRM development, we are also building a new data warehouse, new information delivery methods, and new reporting tools.


How We Work

Our project is executed iteratively, learning the new features, discussing our business needs, and building as we go. Decision-making is guided by the vision of OneUVA. We are donor-centric where possible and always consider end users' perspectives and requirements. Trust and transparency are crucial in our collaborative efforts. The CRM Leadership Team, along with other SMEs from the Advancement Community, guide this work. We operate in subgroups, holding regular meetings for brainstorming, discussion, learning, and decision-making. We maintain a focus on our end goal and these guiding principles throughout the decision-making process. 

Join us on this exciting journey as we shape the future of advancement technology together. Your participation is vital, and we look forward to achieving success with you! 


Get Involved

This transformation will impact everyone in the Advancement Community, and we are committed to insuring you successfully navigate these changes before and after we go live. There are many ways to get involved, including data validation and user testing, CoP meetings to learn about new best practices, and training that you can begin doing today. You can also begin getting ready by cleaning up your Advance data.

CRM Training Resources

Training will come in many forms, including a sandbox environment where you can play around before we go live. But you don’t have to wait, you can begin to learn Salesforce and ascend today!  

Screenshot of ascend demo

Contact Us

Feedback and questions are welcome at any time. Contact us at