There are few absolute truths in fundraising. No matter how large or small the organization, there are a few things I've never heard: "We have plenty of staff, time, money and resources", "Managing volunteers is easy", and "Our database is perfect and I get happy just logging in every day".
After you've finished giggling, consider this thought: The database isn't the problem. The way it's managed, used, resourced, etc. is. For the past 12 or so years I've had great relationships with all of the major fundraising database providers, regardless of how many times they change their names or buy other companies. I'm a fan of Banner (gasp) I think Raiser's Edge is brilliant and find that databases are not the darth vadar we all make them out to be. I am a self confessed data nerd as well though. So how do I help you stop banging your head on your desk and using your database's name as a four letter word? It's simple, I'm going to help you make it easier for everyone.
The database shouldn't be blamed for the following: it's software hasn't
been updated in years (think of not updating the apps on your phone), there is ONE person with the proper training to understand how it works, the database doesn't work like Amazon, or Google, the people managing the database re never allowed out of their cubicles (which usually reside in basement, converted garage, or strip mall), far from the fancy corner offices some of us live in, no one ever invites the data folks to meetings. Think of all of the factors and ask yourselves if you would be high functioning if these circumstances were true.
Have you ever met someone who can understand and speak multiple languages? Follow along my metaphor with me. We all NEED to have someone like this in our organizations. Unfortunately so much is lost in translation. We need to hire more people that understand fundraising but also "speak geek" as I say it. I happily serve as this translator at many organizations. How do we intelligently explain our needs to folks who have never met a donor in most cases? How do they build reports that work for fundraisers if they aren't included in the process from the beginning? We need to advocate for resources for the center, to build our infrastructure. I can tell you that good data folks will make you millions, bad data and poor infrastructure can ruin an operation. It's not the system, it's how it's used, managed and resourced. It takes time, dedication and money to build a proper infrastructure but is a phenomenal investment.
How do we educate the nonbelievers? We show them that regardless of the database or system, if it's junk in, it's junk out. We tell them that they have to explain WHY they need the report and what they're going to do with it. We also need to send data folks to fundraising conferences and fundraisers to database conferences. Spending a day in someone's shoes is a wonderful way to help them appreciate. Some folks don't know what the end user needs and why that makes sense.Finally, we need to hire people with multiple sets of skills and help designate the translators to bridge the gaps.
So tell me about your database? How do you work with your tech team to make it work for you?
How can I help you solve your database issues- I speak geek proudly, join me!