Oh, the woes of a nonprofit fundraising database!

So, let’s talk database.

What? That seems like something so mundane. Well, it may be, but it is so critical to fundraising.

Throughout my professional career, I have been victim to bad databases, and I have been asked to work with bad databases.

One thing is for sure, without an initial thought out structure, problems are inevitable. I often come into organizations that have no rhyme or reason as to what they call their Campaigns, Funds, and Approaches. You know, one year it is called Spring Appeal 2016, and the next it is labeled the Mother’s Day Appeal.

Consistency is key. I see so much inconsistency that why bother having a database, to begin with at all. The way names are entered i.e. Mr. and Mrs. Smith or Bob and Laura or even Robin and Smitty or Robin & Smitty.

It drives me mad.

Having a database procedural manual developed with consistent data entry standards specified is critical. How do you pass this institutional information along when staff transition or do you? Do you let them sink or swim?

Hey, garbage in is only garbage out.

The most important thing is the question of who has access to this database? Who does the main gift entry? Moreover, I pray that your answer is a development staff person. Please, do not say that it is a member of the finance department, or even worse, a volunteer or an intern.

Provide those using the database with training in the software itself and budget for it every year. Moreover, don’t think that a cost saving is ignoring software updates and the resulting costs.

I cannot stress enough how important the database is to your fundraising efforts. It will allow you to be donor-centered in your work regarding recognizing donors and their giving the exact way that they want to be recognized. It lets you accurately report on giving and make comparisons that will affect the future of your fundraising efforts, and it will allow you to become more strategic in your endeavors through segmentation and greater personalization.In all of my career if I had to answer the question of “What impacts the success of fundraising THE most, besides the Board, of course,” I would have to answer, the database.

Moreover, folks EXCEL is not a database; it is a spreadsheet tool used by those in the finance department. Please don’t say that you cannot afford a database. Some great databases are available for a very fair and affordable price.

Pay close attention to your database – this is the brain behind your efforts.



One Response to “Oh, the woes of a nonprofit fundraising database!”

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  1. Chanel VZ says:

    What’s the easiest database to begin with?

    What’s the least expensive to start with?

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