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Case study

The challenge

Teach For America (TFA), a U.S-based educational non-profit organization founded in 1990, aspires to confront educational inequalities in underserved areas. To support its mission to advance children’s education, TFA builds strong donor relationships that provide the necessary financial support for its program. With a network of 64,000 teachers and alumni, TFA serves in more than 9,000 schools across the U.S. Despite TFA’s rapid growth, the internal infrastructure of the educational non-profit is not well-equipped to process incoming donations. The existing TFA gift-payment processing solutions involve several internal and external systems for handling different payment types. Although the standalone systems are fit for their designated tasks, they lack integration and automation. The result is lengthy learning curves for gift processors and time-consuming revenue accounting, which increase both the chances of human error and the need for additional data cleanup.

The lack of an end-to-end payment processing solution led TFA to reach out to Cognizant for help. The organization also wanted a solution that would reduce manual effort and enhance resource utilization.

Our approach

Cognizant started by mapping TFA’s payment technology and business processes with a goal to design a donor payment solution that would simplify and streamline the current donor payment processes. Working with the non-profit’s executive sponsors and strategists we set guiding principles and identified opportunities to improve donor experiences. Our proposed processing solution architecture will increase processing speed and accuracy and reduce system complexity. This gift-processing portal will also ensure improved reporting and analytics, with access to dashboards and insights for both TFA and its donors. While employees will be able to view donation trends and match donor profiles with incoming payments, donors will be able to register and view payment histories. The proposed platform will reduce processing time and manual interventions as well as provide comprehensive data analytics and real-time snapshots of payment status. The gift-processing portal will act as a unified and simplified integration source for all payments. It will also enhance security and accountability while accommodating current and planned payment types. In addition, it will provide extensibility to future payment modes such as digital currency. 

Cognizant charted two implementation routes for TFA’s process transformation to help the non-profit manage its costs and resources. The first route speeds TFA to the new gift-processing platform within a few months, while the second route takes a phased approach that still delivers quick wins as TFA continues to assess and balance its priorities and resources.

A roadmap to the future

Cognizant’s proposed plan to develop an integrated gift portal will position TFA to accept future payment types and create a strategic donation gateway to route payments efficiently. The plan will also help streamline the process of linking payments to donor profiles and provide stronger integration to increase automation, reducing manual efforts. Our recommendations will enable TFA to objectively evaluate the capabilities of potential payment processing vendors and create a two-pronged roadmap to transition from its current state to the new gift-processing platform. Irrespective of which implementation route TFA prefers, the non-profit will be able to increase the clarity around its gift-processing platform design and gain a robust understanding of possible end solutions.


routing of payments through multiple payment options


reporting and analytics tracking


manual efforts and payment processing time