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Development Guide:
Information Systems

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The *VIP System

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Information Systems is responsible for the development and support of The University of Texas at Austin’s (UT) Alumni and Donor database (*VIP) and its subsystems including:

  • Biographical records
  • Gift, pledge, and planned gift administration
  • Prospect management
  • Endowment management
  • Optical image storage
  • Reporting systems

Responsibility for maintenance of the various *VIP subsystems is shared with various groups within the Development Office. For example, responsibility for the gift and pledge processing system and the maintenance of biographical records is shared with Gift and Data Services.

Information Systems is also responsible for training users in all college, school, and units (CSU) in the use of the *VIP system and its subsystems. The Texas Exes share responsibility for training related to alumni records, and Gift and Data Services shares responsibility for training in gift and pledge processing.

Information Systems, in coordination with other groups within the Development Office, is responsible for the development of a presence on the World Wide Web for UT’s external constituents.

The *VIP System

The Purpose and Scope of the *VIP System
The *VIP system is the central repository of current information on alumni, donors, other constituents; gifts; and related development activities. It includes the following subsystems:

  • Biographical records
  • Gift, pledge, and planned gift administration
  • Prospect management
  • Endowment management
  • Optical image storage

An underlying philosophy in the development of the *VIP system is shared responsibility. While each individual represented in the *VIP system is assumed to have a particular CSU as its primary steward, any CSU with a relationship to an individual can and should enter into *VIP the best information that it has on that individual. The primary steward may then review changes to biographical records. Similarly, gift entry begins in the CSU, which receives a gift, and entries are then proofed and gifts deposited by central Gift and Data Services. The *VIP system is intended to contain the best possible information on all individuals in it, and all users are responsible for the accuracy of that information.

The *VIP system contains over 800,000 biographical records and records of over 1,250,000 gifts. The biographical records include:

  • over 400,000 alumni
  • 200,000 records of other individual or husband-and-wife donors and friends
  • 48,000 current students (“future alumni”)
  • 25,000 records of corporate offices
  • 2,000 foundation records
  • Miscellaneous records for groups, trusts, bequests and other entities

Authorization to Use *VIP
The *VIP system is housed on UT’s Informational Technology Services (ITS) Mainframe computer and can be accessed either from the Internet a or by traditional terminal (“3270”). There is only one copy of *VIP; either mechanism accesses the same database, and any updates made from one are immediately available from the other. The newer subsystems of *VIP (Prospect Management, Endowment Management, Planned Giving, and Optical Image storage) are only accessible from the Internet, and all information in *VIP is now accessible from the Web, at least to view. However, some update functions (biographical records maintenance and certain report submissions) are only available by 3270 terminal. Work is in progress to move these functions to the Web.

Before a staff member can be authorized to access *VIP either from the web or 3270, that user must have a mainframe user id (four or five characters, beginning with the two-character prefix for the user’s department, usually followed with the user’s initials). For new employees, a mainframe user id must be requested from UT’s ITS (using *DPUSER) by the employee’s department contact person.

Authorizations to use *VIP are controlled within *VIP, on the SECU screen in *VIP on 3270. Generally, the office manager of a particular unit may create new basic *VIP authorizations (at the “novice” level) for employees within that unit. The office managers for a particular unit can be identified on the SECD screen in *VIP.

Some functions in *VIP require additional authorization. Permission to make direct updates to biographical records is given after the user has taken the VI 120 Biographical Updating class. Various *VIP subsystems such as Prospect Management and Optical Image viewing require special authorization. A user’s special authorizations are displayed at the bottom of the SECU screen. Special authorizations are controlled by the “System Managers”, i.e., the trainers and records section managers in the Texas Exes and the Development Office and the Information Systems staff.

Sources of *VIP data
The *VIP database was created in 1994 by the merger of three existing databases: the Development Office database of donors (*DBINFO), the Texas Exes database of UT alumni (*EXALUM), and the Law School’s database of its alumni (*LOALUM). The two alumni databases had been developed from previous paper-based filing systems and were presumed to include all UT graduates since the founding of the University. The Development Office gift and donor files date back to September 1975. For gifts to UT prior to that date, there is a listing, alphabetic by donor name, in the Development Office library.

New student/alumni records are added to the *VIP database through the following cycle:

  • In May of each year, after the deadline for admitted freshmen to pay their admission deposit, data is loaded from the Admissions files into *VIP, and their parents’ addresses stored as alternate addresses on *VIP.
  • In the Fall and Spring semesters of each year, the Registrar’s database (*NRRECS) is compared to *VIP, and a record is added into *VIP for any currently enrolled student not already in *VIP. Students who enter UT by transfer or as graduate students are normally added through this process.
  • Early in each semester, that semester’s prospective graduates are marked in *VIP and their address information updated from *NRRECS, and the students become eligible to claim the Texas Exes permanent email address.
  • Following graduation each semester, certified degrees are added to the individuals’ *VIP records, and the “Link-to-UT” field is changed from “R” (registered student) to “G” (graduate).

Records are also added to *VIP for parents of undergraduate students, in order to support the activities of the Parents Association, under the auspices of the Vice President for Student Affairs. The admission application includes a field for a parent name, but it is not a required item. The admission data is used to attempt a match to an existing *VIP record, matching primarily by address and phone number, and parent name if provided. If a match is found, a cross-reference is created. If no matching parent record is found, a new record is added to *VIP. If the student admission data included a parent name, that name is used in the new record, but if no parent name was provided, the new record will take the form “Parents of John Q. Student.”

In August of each year, records are added to *VIP for all new tenure-track faculty, using information provided by the Provost’s office. Periodically throughout the year as needed, Constituent Records may add records for new UT staff in key positions, especially Executive Officers and other senior administrative staff, and Development Officers.

Records are added manually to *VIP as needed, either as gifts received from individuals or companies not already in *VIP or for special projects such as identification of new prospects. When a gift is received, the gift processor should search *VIP by name and address to find an existing record for the donor, but if no match is found a new record may be added. If it is subsequently determined that the new record is a duplicate, Gift and Data Services can combine the data of the two records and delete the duplicate. As we continue to increase online giving on the Web and other electronic transactions, we may tend to have less complete information on the donor, and more cases where a new record must be added, at least provisionally until we are able to match to an existing record.

Social Security Numbers and Confidentiality
Information imported into *VIP from the Registrar’s database is subject to the protection of the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). The *VIP system should not be used to access data on current students, except for legitimate, development-related purposes such as maintaining information on recipients of endowed scholarships, or promoting a senior class gift campaign. Anyone accessing student information through *VIP should contact the  Assistant Registrar  for a full explanation of FERPA. The following notes are not a substitute for that training.

  • Most information in or connected to a student record is private and can only be used for internal university purposes. (Development is an appropriate university purpose.)
  • A few fields in the student record, such as name, address, phone and email address have been officially declared to be directory information and can be published or distributed externally.
  • Any student may request that release of his/her directory information be “restricted”, in which case the University cannot even acknowledge that the student is currently enrolled. Once a student requests this confidentiality, that request stands until the student explicitly requests that it be removed. This continues even after the student leaves school. A student can graduate, and maintain the request for confidentiality, in which case the student’s name is not printed in the official graduation roster, and the University cannot confirm to a third party (e.g., a potential employer) that the student received a degree.

There is a periodic comparison between *VIP and *NRRECS to check for the confidentiality flag in *NRRECS, and mark *VIP records as confidential. For currently enrolled students whose records are confidential, all contact information will be blanked out in *VIP unless the student has an involvement code which indicates a specific link to Development (for example, the individual is the recipient of an EPS), or the student is a member of the Texas Exes. When the student graduates, phone address and other contact information will be brought forward into *VIP, but the record will retain the Confidential flag.

Household IDs and Corporate Unit Keys
Giving behaviors of donors are often best understood by considering the gift history of the household, or, in the case of a company, the entire corporate organization. Household IDs and Corporate Unit Keys are assigned in order to group the appropriate records and enable a bird’s eye view.

When a new Company record is added to *VIP, it is reviewed in Gift and Data Services to determine if the company is a subsidiary or branch office of an existing corporate family. The new record is then manually updated with a Corporate Unit Key, either that of the corporate organization it falls under, or a new one. Every Company record will have a Corporate Unit Key, once it has been reviewed by Gift and Data Services.

Household IDs are generated automatically for all individuals.

A Family Foundation will also be linked as a part of a household if:

  • The Foundation record has the UTFNFA involvement code identifying it as a family foundation
  • It has a FR (Family Foundation Founder) cross reference to an individual.

A Trust will also be linked as part of a household if:

  • It has a TF (Founder of Trust) cross reference to an individual.

An Estate will also be linked as part of a household if:

  • It has a ED (Deceased Principal of Estate) cross reference to an individual.

Note that in the Monthly Gift Report and other internal measures of campaign activity, gifts from Family Foundations are totaled under the heading of Individual Giving, rather than under the heading of Foundations. On external surveys, such as the CAE’s Voluntary Support of Education (VSE) survey, gifts from family foundations are counted as foundation gifts, in accordance with CASE standards.

A single household may include multiple family foundations, for example, if the husband and wife are each linked as founders of different foundations. A single foundation, however, may have only one individual identified as its founder, and thus can only be included in one household.

A process runs every night to audit cross-references and household IDs, and assign new household IDs if cross-references have been added during the day. After the household IDs have been rebuilt, the total household giving is recalculated, and updated onto each record in the household. Total corporate giving by unit key is also recalculated and updated nightly for every company record.

Combining and Deleting Records in *VIP
There are a few *VIP users in addition to Gift and Data Services who have authorization to delete records from *VIP; however, combining duplicate records is the sole responsibility of the Constituent Records group. Users with the proper authorization can delete records only if there are no gifts, degree information or cross-references on the record.

Before records are combined, a VI-17 report is run on all records being combined. This report contains all the information currently on the records and is kept on file in the Constituent Records office for at least one year following the combine.

Returned Mail
Gift and Data Services handles almost all of the returned mail for the Development Office and is available to assist the CSUs with large mailings, when needed.

Involvement Codes
Involvement codes are almost exclusively the domain of the Development Office and are used to identify donors or groups with a close or specific affiliation with the University. Some of these are: individuals whose giving level qualifies them for membership in the Littlefield Society; volunteer groups, such as the CSU advisory councils; members of the Texas Congressional delegation or Texas Legislature; members of the Retired Faculty/Staff Association; individuals who have created or are the representative(s)/honoree(s) of an endowment.

Authorization to update involvement codes must be obtained through the Development Office, and is usually given only to those users who are responsible for maintaining membership rosters or mailing lists for the above-mentioned groups.

All staff members of Gift and Data Services have authorization to update involvement codes; however, the group is mainly responsible for the maintenance of involvement codes for Chancellor’s Council, Endowed Presidential Scholarship recipients, and those related to local, state and federal elected officials, as well as UT officials, such as deans, department chairs and heads of organized research units.

Useful Web urls

Constituent Records

The Constituent Records staff of the Gift and Data Services works closely with the Information Systems staff, and serves as one of the primary custodians of the data in the *VIP system. Its mission is to maintaining the integrity of all records in *VIP and to promote consistent methodology in maintaining all *VIP records. While *VIP is a centralized database and any user with the proper authorizations can make updates, there are certain tasks that are almost exclusively the responsibility of the Constituent Records office. Specific ongoing activities in Constituent Records include: tracking deaths and marriages of individuals in *VIP and tracking changes in the political, judicial, corporate and academic (UT) spheres. Constituent Records also functions as a reviewer for all changes made to the system.

Review of Special Prospect Records
Records for individuals or corporations/foundations or associations, which are stewarded centrally by the Development Office, are identified in the *VIP system as Special Prospects. While any user can access and update these records, the changes should be well documented and do not take effect in the system until reviewed and approved by Constituent Records.

Obituaries/Deceasing Records in *VIP
Each morning the Constituent Records staff reviews the obituaries sections of the four major Texas daily newspapers (Austin American-Statesman, Dallas Morning News, Houston Chronicle, and San Antonio Express News) and a search is made of *VIP records for each individual listed, as well as their spouse, if mentioned.

If a record is found for the individual, then it is marked as deceased, and an automatic e-mail notification is created and sent to *VIP users who have opted to receive them. Users receive notifications for only those individuals for whom their CSU is a steward–e.g., a user in the College of Liberal Arts will receive notifications only for individuals who are donors, alumni, or faculty/staff members of Liberal Arts. Users, who want or need to receive e-mail notifications for all records deceased in *VIP, regardless of stewardship, must contact the programming staff.

If the deceased individual is a major donor, a current student, or a faculty/staff member of UT Austin, a complete copy of the obituary is e-mailed to designated contacts in the offices of the Provost, Development, Public Affairs, Human Resources, and UT System. Copies of the obituaries are also kept on file in the Constituent Records office for at least one month.

Corporate, Foundation and Association Records in *VIP

Corporate Records
Records for corporations and their foundations are identified in *VIP with the entity type CO and are further distinguished by a unique number known as a “Unit Key.” When multiple records exist for a corporation and its various locations or subsidiaries, each of the records within the corporate structure is assigned the same Unit Key. Only the Development Office can assign, change or delete Unit Keys.

The Constituent Records Office receives each day a report of all CO type records that were added to the system the previous day. This list is reviewed each morning and a search is done in *VIP for each record listed, to ensure that there are no duplicates. If it is determined that a new record is not a duplicate, basic research is done on the company to determine if it is an independently operating company or a subsidiary of a larger corporation. Based on that research, the record is then either given a new, system-assigned Unit Key or the Unit Key of the corporation for which it is a subsidiary.

The Constituent Records Office also reviews the business sections of the Austin American-Statesman and the Austin Business Journal for notifications of corporate mergers and acquisitions or name changes. When a merger or acquisition occurs, records for the corporations involved are updated appropriately and notifications sent to the prospect managers and the Corporate and Foundation Relations office detailing the merger/acquisition and the updates/changes that have occurred on the affected records.

Constituent Records also tracks changes in corporate leadership and endeavors to identify UT alumni within corporations. In *VIP, employees are linked to corporate records by entering the ID number of the corporate record in the employer ID field on the business screen of the individual’s record. To view a list of all individual records linked to a specific corporate record, the user simply enters an “x” in the “employees linked” field on the business screen of the corporate record. To obtain a list of all employees linked to a corporation and its subsidiaries, in the 3270 version of *VIP, the user can run a report by entering GREM in the command field and then entering the Unit Key of the corporation when prompted.

To view a list all records in *VIP with the same Unit Key, while on the corporate record, the user enters BLCO in the command field and the Unit Key number in the MISC field on the command line.

Foundation Records
Records for non-profit foundations or foundations that are not corporate-owned are identified in *VIP by entity type FN. A further distinction is made between family and non-family foundations by use of the involvement codes UTFNFA and UTFNNF, respectively.

When a record is added to the *VIP system with entity type FN, an automatic e-mail notification is sent to the Constituent Records Office. A search is done on the Foundation Center online web site for information on the foundation, including its principals. If the foundation is listed as independent, the Records staff enters the UTFNFA or UTFNNF, as appropriate.

A search is also made in *VIP for individual records for the founders or board members/trustees of the foundation. When records are found, they are linked appropriately to the foundation on the CREF and BCCO screens.

A report is generated at the end of each month of all new foundation records added to the *VIP system during that month. This report is reviewed by the Corporate and Foundation Relations office to verify that the records have been appropriately coded as family/non-family foundations.

Association Records
Records for philanthropic and benevolent societies and associations, schools and universities, and government agencies are identified in *VIP with entity type AS. These records are updated and maintained in much the same way as corporate and foundation records. As with corporate records, when there are records for multiple branches of an association, the records may be linked with a Unit Key.

Automated Processes in *VIP

Automated Update Processes
To maintain accurate contact information for a database of over 400,000 alumni, plus other donors and friends, the Information Systems staff relies on a number of electronic and automated processes. These include the following:

  • US Postal Service Address Change Service (ACS) tapes. Any unit which sends 3rd class mailings can obtain a “Patron ID” from the Postal Service, and if the mailing label includes this Patron ID along with a unique ID for the individual (the “VIP encoded ID” is our standard), the USPS will provide Change of Address data on tape, instead of returning physical mail pieces. The charge per address change returned on tape is less than that for traditional Address Change returns. The department will receive a cartridge tape monthly, and may forward it by campus mail to the Information Systems staff to be processed. Address changes will be routed electronically in *VIP. More information on ACS can be obtained from University Supply and Mail Service. When a CSU has obtained an ACS patron ID, it should contact the Information Systems staff so that the ID can be automatically included as a part of mail files generated from *VIP.
  • Annual Fund phonathon results upload. Annual Fund phonathon calling results are uploaded into *VIP daily. In addition to pledge information, biographical updates including name, address, phone and employment information are forwarded electronically to Constituent Records for review and routing.

Changes entered here are routed to the Texas Exes for review. Colleges are encouraged to provide links to this url from their own home pages.

  • Other batch updates. The Information Systems staff works with technical staff in various CSUs to assist in importing data from other sources. For example, the College of Pharmacy receives data on licensed pharmacists every year from the State Board of Pharmacy.

Reporting Options
There are many specialized reports, which can be submitted by *VIP users as needed. Reporting options can be found in several different locations under the *VIP umbrella:

  • DBINFO reports. These are “tried and true” reports for various aspects of gifts, pledges, endowments and other areas. The DBINFO menu can be accessed by the MM00 command in *VIP on 3270.
  • Web Report Writers. There are three Report Writers: the Biographical Report Writer, the Gift Report Writer and the Pledge Report Writer. These are powerful tools which allow the user to select records based on many criteria, and to choose among many output options, including downloadable files to import into Excel, Word or Filemaker Pro. Requests normally run in 5-15 minutes.
  • GRPT and PRPT gift and pledge reports. These are newer gift and pledge reports, developed after the Gift Processing system was redesigned in 1997. Many include options for downloadable output.
  • RW alumni report writer, in *VIP on 3270. Developed for the Texas Exes, this is a flexible tool for selecting alumni records and producing lists, labels and downloads. If one’s reporting needs only involve biographical data and do not involve gift or pledge information, RW is effective and easy to use. Requests run overnight.
  • Biographical, Gift and Research reports on the Web. These are under the Reports subsystem pull down on *VIP on the Web. The Biographical Report is the reincarnation of the DBINFO RD07 biographical report, the Gift Report is the reincarnation of the DBINFO RG23 gift report, and the Research report is the reincarnation of the DBINFO RS16 research report. In each case, additional features have been added. The Research Report is generated immediately on the Web. The Biographical Report and Gift Report normally run in 5-15 minutes. Use of the Biographical Report is taught in the VI 200 class.
  • The Record Extractor, REX, on the Web. REX can select records based on combinations of biographical, gift, and other criteria, and can produce in downloadable output virtually all data stored anywhere in *VIP. Requests run overnight. Use of REX is taught in the VI 210 class. Potential users should explore the powers of the Biographical Report and DBINFO report writers and consult with the Information Systems staff before using REX.

Email Handling
The *VIP System can store up to three email addresses for an individual: Preferred, Alternate, and the Texas Exes Permanent email address.

The system for claiming a Texas Exes Permanent email address is hosted by UT Information Technology Services (ITS) using authorization data provided from *VIP, and with information on claimed addresses fed back to *VIP weekly. An individual is eligible to claim a Permanent email address if he or she is a UT graduate, or is in the final semester before graduation and has filed a degree application. Active members of the Texas Exes who are not UT graduates are also eligible.

The Permanent email address is a forwarding service, hosted by UT ITS. The individual establishes an email address of the form, and specifies an actual address to which mail will forward, e.g.,

Through various reporting facilities, users may obtain lists of email addresses for use in mass mailings. The Information Systems staff maintains a procedure for handling returned email, and interpreting error codes to determine whether the error condition is a permanent condition such as a bad address, or a temporary condition such as a full mailbox. If the cause is a permanent condition, that email address can be automatically marked as bad in *VIP. CSUs sending bulk email to addresses from *VIP should consult with the Information Systems staff to determine the best way of routing bounced mail back to *VIP for processing.

*VIP System Training

Training Staff and Training Schedule
The Development Office and the Texas Exes share responsibility for training users in the use of the *VIP system. Within Development, the Information Systems staff is joined in the training mission by staff in various areas, including Gift and Data Services, Endowment Services, and Research Services.

Most *VIP classes are taught monthly; some are taught less frequently or on-demand. The class schedule is on the Web, at

In the upper left, on the Course ID pull down, select “VI”, and under “Select an Option”, select “Class Listing” to view the schedule. Clickable links will lead to complete information on each class, and to registration. The training schedule is also announced monthly by email to the Development community.

Training Tracks
All new *VIP users are expected to take the introductory class:

VI 100 – Introduction to *VIP, which provides an overview of the system’s content and functions.

After this basic class, training is generally divided into two tracks, one intended for development professionals, whose principal interests are in fundraising and information about major gift prospects, and the second for development support staff whose principal duties include record maintenance, gift recording, and related administrative tasks. Some class offerings are common to both tracks, but might be taken in a different sequence depending on relative importance to one’s job duties.

Development professionals should contact Research Services for a one-on-one tutorial in the Prospect Management system, as the next step after completing the introductory classes. Support staff should enroll in VI 120 Biographical Updating following the introductory classes. In either track, various classes may be appropriate afterwards depending on job duties and interests. For schematics of the courses in the two tracks, see the documents “VIP Class Scheme” and “VIP Training Checklist” in the VIP Curriculum folder on the Intranet.

Basic classes are taught monthly, and specialized classes are primarily taught bi-monthly or quarterly.

Services Provided to Colleges, Schools and Units
The Information Systems staff is available to assist users in any CSU with special projects such as annual reports, special mailings, development and maintenance of email listservs, or data imports from external sources. Ability to assist in a timely fashion depends on complexity of the request, so it is important to advise the Information Systems staff of the importance of the project and of any deadlines.

The Constituent Records staff assists CSUs in maintaining records in *VIP. For assistance with returned mail or other special project needs; corporate and foundation records; or in combining and deleting *VIP records, contact Gift and Data Services.

Primary Contact

Cesar De La Garza

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