Saving the trees and harvesting donations reaps awards for Joseph Cataudella
October 5, 2012
By Fred Michah Rynor
Trying to bring in a bumper crop of United Way donations without killing a forest of trees was the challenge presented to Joseph Cataudella, a senior software developer at OISE.
The program that the U of T United Way team envisioned would end up being so successful and groundbreaking that he was named a recipient of this year's Excellence through Innovations Award.
Cataudella, a graduate of UTSC's Honours Specialist in Computer Science: Software Engineering Program, has been with OISE for the past six years (with five years before that at UTSC as a computer programmer). During this time he has seen first-hand the staggering amount of paper that is still a major component of today's supposedly 'paperless' office.
"The United Way Campaign committee members and organizers had to come up with a way to approach potential donors without having to send so many paper forms to fill out," says Cataudella. “We wanted to follow the university's 'Go Green' initiative which not only helps the environment but also saves the university a lot of money in purchasing and handling costs."
This computer tool provides a new method for donor outreach; it asks faculty and staff if they want to opt in or out of communication with the United Way.
One of the biggest concerns during its creation was the potential of losing donations, he states.
“Because a lot of people on campus still expected to receive the donation form in paper format, we had to make sure we didn’t alienate anyone."
Luckily for all involved, this focused e-mail outreach has proven not only popular but very successful; U of T received $853,066 in donations via the e-mail campaign's initial first year.
"It does seem pretty basic at first glance," Cataudella says of the logic behind this electronic reality, "but certain demographic populations often prefer traditional communication over more cutting-edge solutions. We had to make this process as simple and accessible as possible to cater to all recipients. U of T is responding to changing times."
For two weeks Cataudella wrote the technology, then tested and implemented a solution which included the personal greeting and a personal opt in/opt out message entwined in a specific URLS tool.
"It's an incredibly specific and focused program and the feedback has been really positive. A few basic challenges popped up but these small bumps were resolved quickly."
Cataudella received his award, along with other Excellence Through Innovation Award recipients, from President David Naylor on October 3rd at a reception at the president's residence.