UTD Tracks Gifts, Donations with Voyager

Earlier this year the Eugene McDermott Library at the University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) began use of its Voyager Integrated Library System (ILS) and Excel inventory lists as a means of tracking gifts and materials donated to the Library.

Mary Jo Venetis portraitKnowing that the accurate tracking of gifts and donated items is a challenge faced by many Amigos Members, ¿Que Pasa? recently visited with Dr. Mary Jo Venetis, Associate Director for Technical Services, to learn more about the decision to use the Voyager system in this manner and how it’s working.

QP: Can you talk about the reasons that tracking of gifts and donated materials is important? For instance, is the tracking more about inventory or about the politics of gifting and recognition for the donor? This assumes the reasons for tracking dictate the approach you found to be most useful.

MJV: In December 2010, the Office of Development and Alumni Relations at UTD requested that we remove all references to credit card information on the library's printed and web forms. Dr. Ellen D. Safley, Director of Libraries, began receiving weekly reports from the Office of Development and Alumni Relations, recording the donors who gave materials to the library’s Special Collections. These reports did not include gifts that went through the Acquisitions unit within Technical Services, and it raised questions on our end. It turned out that Acquisitions did not use the University's gift-in-kind-acceptance form. Acquisitions used their own gifts form, and these forms were not sent to the Office of Development for tracking. Consequently, all donated materials that went through Acquisitions were never recorded by the Office of Development.

It became imperative to have all donated materials received by the library be recorded to recognize and acknowledge donors for their donations. It was also necessary for the Office of Development to recognize the value of these donated materials, and in recognizing that value we needed to abide by IRS regulations. According to IRS procedures, the recipient of the gift cannot assign the dollar value because the library is an interested party. It is the responsibility of donors to have collections and/or gifts professionally assessed by other parties. The Office of Development simply acknowledges the number of items received, rather than the actual dollar amount, as a way to recognize the "value" of donated materials. This allows them to meet the university's ongoing goal to raise funds to support its needs as a growing university. On its web page, the Office of Development acknowledges that the support from alumni, friends, corporations and foundations enables UTD to operate "with less than half of the university's annual operating budget coming from state assistance." Along these lines, the library also encourages donations, both monetary and non-monetary, in order to maintain traditional collections while expanding access to scholarly electronic resources.

QP: How were you handling this important activity prior to your current approach? What was good about your prior approach, and what was lacking?

MJV: There is a staff member in Acquisitions who is solely responsible for handling the gifts upon receipt, although almost everyone at the McDermott Library is involved.

This is a common scenario prior to the revised procedures: a donor may drop off materials at the Circulation Desk or Reference Desk, or even through the library's book drop containers. The donor did not always know that he/she needed to complete a gift acknowledgement form. If library staff asks the donors to complete the form, the donor may decide to omit relevant information or refuse to complete the form, preferring to remain anonymous. In other cases, the donor may want an acknowledgment of their donation at specific times. For instance, there are some faculty members who prefer to receive an inventory list of their donated materials at the end of the calendar year for tax purposes.

However, we were not consistent in handling these donated materials because we did not always record donor names, addresses, etc. As mentioned earlier, Acquisitions also did not send these forms to the Office of Development.

The library staff would then take the materials to the Acquisitions Department. An Acquisitions staff member would record the number of items received for each donor in one of three categories: anonymous, donors without an inventory list, and donors with inventory lists. At the end of the month, the staff member would send letters to those donors requiring no inventory lists. For those donors who preferred to receive inventory lists at the end of the calendar year, the staff member would send these lists along with acknowledgement letters in December.

The Acquisitions staff member would set aside these donated materials for the liaison librarians to review them. The liaison librarians would decide whether to retain these materials or dispose of them.

QP: Describe your current approach and explain how it meets your needs better than your prior approach.

MJV: In discussions with the Office of Development, we learned that we needed to provide additional information. We revised our procedures accordingly.

First, we had to provide donor information. It became essential that the library staff keep a good record of who donated materials and what they donated. We requested that all library staff have the gifts-in-kind acceptance forms be made available because these forms should accompany the donated materials. If the donor preferred to remain anonymous, and/or there was no additional information when materials were dropped off during the library's off-hours, library staff would enclose the forms and mark them anonymous, alerting Acquisitions and the Office of Development staff that no additional information would be available.

Second, we had to provide an inventory list using Excel spreadsheets. The Office of Development wanted to know when the materials were donated along with a brief citation (author, title, publisher, publication date, and format, i.e. hardbound versus paperback.). As an example, if microfilm was received we needed to list the number of reels received. If multiple volumes of a title were received, we also recorded the number of items.

Third, the library would submit the donation forms, along with copies of acknowledgement letters and inventory lists, to the Office of Development on a monthly basis. This allowed the Office of Development to record all the pertinent information into their database, which generated formal thank-you notes for donors.

Finally, the Office of Development generated weekly reports and disseminated them to the appropriate department heads. A copy was also sent to the University administration.

QP: Can you close with some additional good advice for your Amigos colleagues on this topic?

MJV: Communication is critical in making the process viable and efficient. Although the inventory lists require extra data entry time on the Acquisitions end, this process allows the library to participate in UTD's ongoing efforts to raise funds to meet their needs. And it is always a good thing to make the library a visible entity.

As for "good advice", I can share our process relating to cataloging. We add a 947 field within bibliographic records for internal purposes only. And it is essential to mark the holdings record as a gift in the 008 method-of-acquisition field in order to generate an Excel inventory list of all materials acquired through the donation process.

One final piece of advice I would offer is to confer with colleagues both within and outside your library when defining revised procedures. I’d like to thank my fellow librarians who shared information and insights with me in response to my queries over various listservs.