Are you one of those people still managing donors like this?:
Or, maybe you’ve broken free of the spreadsheets and opted for a database, but data is still all over the place… looking something like this:
Crazy, isn’t it? Why do we do this? Why torture ourselves day in and day out putting up with these strange systems in place? Well, we justify it to ourselves. We tell ourselves “I can keep doing it this way… it’s not that bad. Sure it’s bizarre, takes forever, and doesn’t do exactly what I need it to, but it works… sort of.”
If you stop and think about it though, you know it doesn’t really work. Let’s face it, the more time that you spend piecing together information from three different programs, reading multiple spreadsheets and tracking down donor names in address books and on randomly scattered post-it notes, the less time that you can actually spend fundraising.
And what about organizational memory? What happens, for instance, when staff turn over in the organization? While you may understand these bizarre routines for finding donors or generating a particular report, you can be sure that anyone new coming into the organization will not.
So, why do we keep doing this? There are, after all, perfectly good databases out there meant to manage your entire nonprofit and make it really, really easy! Well, it might be that you’ve become oddly accustomed to this crazy donor management. At least you know it and don’t have to change. And there it is folks. That’s what it likely comes down to: CHANGE. Nobody likes it. Some people will put up with ridiculous time-wasters, and money-wasters, all in an effort to avoid it.
Stop the madness! Here are two very sound reasons why you should embrace change:
1. Change Doesn’t have to be Scary
Sure switching to a new system is a big job, but it has an end. In a few weeks your data is transferred, a couple more days and you’re trained, a couple more days and you’re whizzing through donor reports, building campaigns, and entering donations… you’re pretty much a pro! In one month you’ve totally got it down and it’s all over. What you’re doing right now, on the other hand, has no end. It will continue sucking time, frustrating you, and creating a shoddy database for the future of your organization forever. Now that is scary!
2. Once it’s over, the benefits are huge!
Once that month is over, of course, you get to reap the glorious benefits of a fully integrated database that manages your entire organization. You’ll be more organized and vastly more efficient. Data will be more accessible for building lists, looking at donors, generating reports. Data will also be richer because your day-to-day work is building relationships between data and an integrated database. For instance, you are relating donations to a particular campaign or time of year, or donors and location, age, etc.
These connections enable you to turn disparate information into a valuable resource, so you can build rich organizational memory that helps informs decision and allows you to become better focused. All of this means better marketing, better donor relations, and better fundraising.
Finding the right database
Once you’ve decided that you’ve had enough of crazy donor management, and you’re ready to make a change, you’ll want to make sure you make the right choice of databases. After all, who knows when you’ll build up the nerve to change again!
Besides finding a database that’s easy to use and allows you to manage everything in one place, you’ll also want to consider these things:
- Cost – is the price of the database and support affordable today and in the future when you grow?
- Access – can you access the database online (if this is a requirement for your organization)?
- Tracking – you can see how constituents are related to the organization and to each other?
- Customization – can you personalize the software so it fits with your organization’s programs, terminology, etc.?
- Integration – can the database work seamlessly with other things in your office (email, word processing, spreadsheets) as well as other programs you use (ConstantContact, QuickBooks, etc.)?
- Support – is support included? Is it good? Are manuals, and training videos available?
- Usability – is it software you can set up and use yourself or do you need a degree in computer science to piece it all together?