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Loyola University Chicago Transforms Donor Database With Smartsheet

To support the school’s fundraising efforts, the team at Loyola University’s Gift Processing Department turned to the easy-to-use Smartsheet to help process an overwhelming amount of details.


  • Education

Organization Size

  • Large (1,000 - 9,999 employees)


  • North America

Use Cases

  • Data Management
  • Employee Training
  • Event Management

I’m addicted to Smartsheet – I take it with me wherever I go. Whether I’m commuting home on the train, pulling up a sheet on my iPad during a meeting, or basing a conference presentation about what we’ve been able to accomplish, Smartsheet is the way I work. It’s changed my life.

Stacey Hughes, Director of Advancement Information Services

With four campuses in the Chicago area, over 16,000 undergraduates and 150,000 alumni, Loyola University Chicago has a wide network of patrons. Fundraising is a critical part of the University’s operations, and every gift the University receives comes through one team: the Gift Processing Department.

The gatekeeper for massive amounts of information, the Gift Processing Department team is responsible for inputting all donor information, from phone number to mailing address, into the University’s donor database and processing each gift – and pulling this information back out of the database for other departments to repurpose. It’s a fast-paced, detail-oriented job.

Stacey Hughes, director of advancement information services, leads the team. “For as long as I can remember, we had request forms on our employee intranet,” she says. “Anyone at the University could download an Excel file, complete their request for information, and email their request to us. We tried to set expectations of a two week turnaround with requests for data lists, but it wasn’t working. As a result, we were spending a lot of time fielding requests and dealing with last minute fire drills. It was clear we needed a better, more organized process.”

Hughes began to search for a work management solution that would help systemize this chaos and add some accountability into the request process. When she found Smartsheet, Hughes knew she was on the right track.

“With the familiar spreadsheet interface, Smartsheet isn’t intimidating. It was a natural transition from what we had been doing with Excel,” she says.

Transforming the Process

Hughes began by importing the old Excel request forms into Smartsheet. “From that point, it was easy to make a web form that I could make accessible on our intranet,” she says. “Once the web forms were up, I shared the underlying sheets with my team to better organize our data requests.”

With Smartsheet, Hughes and her team customize each form for the different scenarios and make certain columns required. Now requests won’t make it into the master sheet unless they’re completely filled out.  

Once a Loyola employee has completely filled out a data request via web form and submitted to the Gift Processing Department, information is fed directly into Smartsheet, rather than sending to an inbox. Once the request is in the sheet, it can be assigned to one of the gift processors and the team can collaborate on completing requests. Transparency and accountability are now the name of the game, and hours of time are saved each week.  

“Smartsheet helps us provide context to the requests that we’re tackling. We also attach files to rows and leave notes in the Discussion fields on really complicated requests. Reports make it easy for us to surface urgent requests,” says Hughes.  

In addition, the team sends specific rows of the sheet to get updates from members of other departments. Email notifications automatically alert Hughes and her team when an urgent request comes in. Everything is coordinated, everyone is in the loop.

A Shift in Culture

“Smartsheet has had a huge impact on my team, helping us streamline our work and track requests,” says Hughes. “While you can’t always see our work, my team is always booked solid. Now I’m able to use the Calendar view of our schedules to communicate with other departments. Their response? ‘We had no idea you were this busy.’ Now, our two week guideline for requests is understood – and respected. It’s exciting to see the positive effect that increase in respect has on my team.”

Having current work and past data requests visible in Smartsheet means less interruptions for Hughes and her team. “We field fewer questions and have more time to actually work on getting requests completed” she says.

Given this success, Hughes and leaders from other departments at Loyola are exploring new ways to use Smartsheet throughout the university.

New Employee Orientation

All new Loyola employees are oriented, trained and have goals identified for their professional development. This process, and all associated paperwork, is now streamlined in Smartsheet. With one centralized location online, redundancies are eliminated when an employee transfers from one department to the next.

Task Tracking

The Gift Processing Team now has an individual sheet to track the tasks they’re working on. “Smartsheet has streamlined our weekly update meetings,” explains Hughes, “and it’s a great way for me to communicate our activities with my supervisor.”

Event Planning

The event planning committee now uses Smartsheet to plan and track everything for their holiday events and dinners. 'Who’s bringing what?' is now clear.

Managing System Upgrades

“Loyola is moving a lot of its processes online,” says Hughes.  “In the past, we’ve tried using SharePoint to work with software vendors – half the time it wouldn’t work and would lock users out.  Now with documentation tracked in Smartsheet instead, everyone can access it any time: our IT team, vendors, teams from our other campuses – it’s always at their fingertips.”