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What's in a database?

When you think of your database and pulling reports what comes to mind?

Do you get giddy and excited to pull numbers and review trends?

Or do you despair that you are about to enter a black hole where names, addresses and interactions were entered but likely to never be seen again?

If you are the one that is giddy I'm with you! I love to run reports with different criteria. Discovering trends and using them to forecast and create a strategic vision is exciting.

Now if you are in the corner wallowing in despair - I get it. I've worked in databases that defeated my love of numbers. If you are there let me tell you there is hope. A few things to consider -

  • A database will never be perfect as if it's being used consider it a living and breathing part of your business - ever changing and evolving

  • Do you have data entry procedures that are relevant and implemented

  • Are you updating procedures with some regularity?

  • Is your database built for your needs

Living and breathing -

It is critical to remember that if your database is used to keep track of clients, donors, members, *fill in the blank* that it will change daily. And that's exciting! If you don't like what you are seeing with a trend take a snap shot of a few days / weeks and see how you can implement a change and go back and take another snap shot.

Entry procedures -

Sometimes its user error. For example if you are a non-profit take a look at donor interaction that was entered last week, last year and five years ago. What has changed?

Have you created a procedure that works for your organization? And if you have a procedure has every party responsible for entering data being properly trained. Sometimes reviewing the procedure and helping people understand the reason behind the procedure is key.

Updating -

Nothing better than outdated procedures am I right. Make it a point to review your procedures with some regularity. And make the review a group effort. Ask those who use the database to chime in and help.

Your needs -

Your provider may have met your needs 5 years ago but do they now? Long-term relationships are pretty awesome but if the other party is not keeping up with trends then be sure to look into what's out there.

When a switch is in order I like to ask others in similar industries for their recommendations. I ask what they like them and what they don't. That typically garners a list of 5 -10. From that I work with those using the database to understand their needs. It can be a 6 month - 1 year process to make the switch but when done thoroughly the wins in efficiency pays for itself.

Are you in a database happy place? I'd love to hear about your wins and what you do to maintain a working database.

If you are in a database slump I'd love to chat and help you through your trials.


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