I recently asked the Facebook community “Fundraising Chat” what their most common challenges were when it came to databases. A few challenges came up, so I’m using my experiences to help tackle some of these issues.
1. Have a good clear out
Imagine the situation. You’re inputting some new data, and one of the fields is “How did you hear about us”. The drop-down options show a number of things, including ‘Phonebook’. Now, it’s 2019 and few people probably have ‘Phonebook’ as an option, however you can probably think of many drop down lists, which have historic field options that are no longer relevant. This common issue is a result of not keeping on top of your database.
One way to sort this out? To have a good clear out (with your team! See below). Go through and remove, or hide, all those field options you’re hoarding, and add the new ones that aren’t on the database. Ulimately? Make sure that your database fits your systems and processes as well as it first did when you got it.
If you want a more structured way of doing this, my online course, “4 steps to get more from your database”, will help you do this in a structured, methodical way.
2. People people people
Your people are the MOST important asset for good data.
As a first step, make sure your team are confident in using the database. If you’re finding a new database, make sure they are part of your decision making process.
If your database needs some clearing out, make sure that your team are involved in this discussion.
One way of doing this, is to gather your team together every 6-12 months to review the database. Find out what is there that is no longer relevant, what needs adding and what else should be changed.
This discussion will also help you to identify whether the challenges are because of the database, or actually because of training needs within the team.
For a structured way of having these discussions, “4 steps to get more from your database” takes you through a tried and tested method for making changes with your team.
3. Time and budget
When we think about ongoing budgets for databases, we usually think about the subscription charges. We rarely think about the budget and time that is needed for database development. For steps 1 and 2 to thrive, there needs to be time and money available to make changes and meet training needs.
You can reduce this cost by setting up a culture of sharing within your organisation and getting peer training from online forums, or groups. Also, make the most of that subscription and get as much help as you can from your database provider.
If a big change is needed, make sure there is enough budget to cover things like consultant or provider fees, and staff training.
If you know that a small investment now will ensure you record better data (which ultimately brings more money into your organisation), you are more likely to set aside that budget.
4. Sort out permissions
You should make sure you have some standards around permissions for your database. If all of your team have the ability to edit fields, your drop-down lists will probably have 3 versions of the same thing (sometimes with some typos!):
If this sounds familiar, you’re probably also familiar with spending more time pulling that data together at the end. Your default should be to give someone minimum permissions on the database (e.g. view only) and then, as the needs become apparent, add permissions to their profile. Only a very limited number of people, who know what they are doing, should have admin rights. (P.S. this method for permissions also helps with GDPR data security too!). Setting appropriate permissions, as well as meeting training needs and regularly reviewing your database will help your team record better data.
So a few simple steps you can implement, to help you get more from your database!