DARS programme

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DARS is intended to be the most advanced higher education fundraising database in Europe.  It is a comprehensive tool for development and alumni relations professionals across Colleges, Departments and central University offices.  Usage is driven by the Relationship Management Protocols for Fundraising agreed by the University and Conference of Colleges in 2014.  There are hugely significant benefits to be achieved from a coordinated approach to fundraising and alumni relations. 

The main software underpinning the DARS System is Blackbaud CRM, the current version of which was implemented in January 2014.

The DARS Programme reflects the prioritisation of projects funded by The University’s IT Capital Plan. The primary objective of the DARS programme for 2016-19 is on a range of projects to ensure a system fit for purpose and compliant with recent data legislation.  These will deliver greater effectiveness and efficiency for all current users, alumni and donors, with a review of core business and system processes and a deepening of existing functionality in the CRM (customer relationship management) and online.  Ultimately this will improve the quality, strength and depth of collegiate-wide lifetime relationships and communications with alumni and friends and facilitate increased fundraising support for Oxford to more than £250m per annum.

One of the primary benefits to be gained from DARS is the enhanced data quality that a robust solution brings to its users.  To maximise fundraising and other relationships it is essential that staff understand the whole picture of our relationship with donors, alumni and prospects.  Appropriate integration of DARS with other sources of data is a key element in meeting this objective.  At the same time, it is equally important that the infrastructure, functionality and processes which underpin DARS are advanced, flexible, robust and performant enough to meet the user community’s needs, in order to drive the most effective fundraising and alumni relations possible in line with Oxford’s mission.

The DARS development programme, currently consists of the following projects (2016-19):

  • DARS Software was upgraded to version 4 on 16th February – the transition has gone smoothly
  • Gift Administration – in progress
  • Audit and Compliance Project:
    • Tranche 1: Complete
    • Tranche 2: One Click Consent Gathering technical solution is implemented and rollout is underway. GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) requires changes to consent management and reporting. Full implementation of enhanced solicit codes will be rolled out by July 2018 alongside focused activities in consent gathering, management and reporting.


The main goals of the programme are to deliver:

  • Enhancement of user capabilities: to improve core business processes in specific areas that will deliver the greatest benefit to the participant community, including resolution of current gaps in functionality and/or user understanding, for example gift administration.
  • Improvement of the constituent journey: to utilise technology, data and social media to deliver strategically important benefits to alumni, donors and other prospects, including provision of better online engagement, communications and other responsive interactions.
  • Development of a self-assurance programme to review existing DARS governance, rules, processes and functionality relating to areas of compliance to ensure the system framework meets compliance and regulatory requirements, DARS users throughout the University are aware of and meet their responsibilities, and the system and its data is secure.


  • The DARS v4 Upgrade introduced important TLS (Transport Layer Security) functionality ensuring we can continue to receive and process donations via credit card.
  • Continued support from Blackbaud (software provider).
  • Improved functionality to support GDPR-compliant practices that support consent gathering and reporting.
  • Major new prospects have been identified.
  • Information is more secure.
  • Events and memberships management is more efficient.
  • The system is more performant and resilient.
  • Business data has been improved.
  • Email marketing has been enhanced.
  • More alumni register and regularly log in to an Oxford community within DARS.
  • More alumni donate and register for events online.
  • Significant new data has been captured on more than 150,000 constituents through migrations and feeds.
  • The number of open ITSM incidents has reduced significantly.
  • Self-service reporting from DARS has improved.
  • There has been an increase in the percentage of Oxford Thinking new funds secured that are tracked through DARS.

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