The Dirty Word: Databases!

Last week, I started my first weekly two-hour volunteering job at a local nonprofit. I was excited to get there for the first time–so excited I wouldn’t stop at the Dunkin Donuts across the street so that I could make it there exactly by 9:00 AM! No one was pulling my arm to volunteer; I was happy and eager to help!

I did get a bit of nerves pulling up to the building, when I was remembering how my friend wrote in her email that my time would be a “boon” for their organization. I’d never heard anyone say that to me before! It sure felt good, but I had a flash of fear that I wouldn’t live up to their expectations.

After sitting down, my friend started to explain the complexities and intricacies of their database. I realized quickly they are particularly challenged by infrastructure. They don’t have a full-time database manager nor any real cohesion with different department’s databases. It was a disappointment to say the least.

I know how beneficial it is to have a quality database and someone to “defend the line” when leadership recommends implementing aspects that aren’t designed for the database or are just illogical (it happens ALL the time!). But, this wasn’t anything I’m not used to.

Fundraisers often refer to their database as their “gold mine.”

Just like mining a gold mine, you need to:

  • Know how to orient yourself
  • Know what you are looking for that is valuable
  • Know how to get it out to use it

Understanding how to manage a database is certainly under-appreciated in the nonprofit world. Too many people take database work and professionals for granted. But, let me tell you–you’d be nothing without them. In fact, your nonprofit is really limited by its ability to manage your data.

As a former database manager, I understand these complexities and because I’ve also served in different development functions, I know what officers and directors need when they are utilizing the data. The ability to have analytical and big-picture thinking skills when managing your database will give you the best outcome in your fundraising program.

I also highly recommend database professionals take an advanced class in utilizing Microsoft Excel. Anything that can’t be accomplished in the database can be manipulated and done in Excel. Last week, I saved my friend hours of headaches with a few equation tricks I knew. The other ladies in the office started asking me if I was a magician! This is one career development class not to skip out on!

It felt so good to help my friend and her organization with just a two-hour window of my time. I don’t know who benefited more!

What challenges do you face in your database? Are you willing to do the work to maximize its purpose for your office? What do you need to do to get there?

Ask yourselves these questions now and take just one baby step after another to get there.

Don’t get overwhelmed by the time it will take to get there.

I find just taking one step in the right direction helps me feel better. Let me know if you think I could help you with your database problems!

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