Intimidated by Data Integration?
When it comes to technical phrases such as “data integration” and “on-demand export,” most fundraisers go running for the hills. What many don’t realize, however, is how critical successful database integration can be to their jobs — and that information resulting from integration can make their jobs easier and more effective.
Many nonprofit organizations have one or more database systems that store valuable information such as constituent records and fundraising transactions. As an organization grows, it might add database systems rather than upgrade or add newer, unified systems. Some organizations have different needs that are uniquely met by individual systems. Regardless of the reason, maintaining precious data in several disconnected locations puts fundraisers at a disadvantage — they lack a holistic view of constituents’ relationships with their organization.
For organizations requiring the maintenance of existing databases, integrating the databases becomes an important — and frequently necessary — way to increase the value of the donor and prospect information they’ve worked so hard to gather. By integrating information from multiple sources, fundraisers can better understand constituents, better meet constituent needs, and save valuable time and energy.
Know your donors
The Breast Cancer Fund, a national organization focused on identifying the causes of breast cancer and preventing the disease, uses one system as its
primary database to house gift transactions and another system to capture and understand constituents’ online activity. The organization wanted to integrate data from both systems to get targeted information for
decision-making in online and offline campaigns, as well as detailed information about how constituents interact with BCF.
A two-way integration was created between the two database systems that allows BCF’s constituents to become more engaged with the organization by
donating, participating, advocating and volunteering via its Web site. Donor information automatically is passed back and forth between databases on a daily basis, which has cut back on the time the organization spends on manual data entry; and fundraisers always have the latest, most up-to-date information, no matter which database they use.
As a result of its database integration, BCF can see how constituents use its Web site, which helps it more effectively communicate with supporters. In addition, it’s well-informed about prospects and donors, and it can track constituent relationships much more easily than before.
“The database integration has expanded our ability to be well-informed about our donors and [has made] it much easier to track certain kinds of relationships between donors,” says Jacob Levine, administrative manager for BCF. “The Breast Cancer Fund also has more detailed information about how constituents use our Web site, helping us to be more targeted in our communications. None of this would have been possible without integrating information between our databases.”
The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, an organization committed to providing cancer treatment while developing cures through research, uses one database system to manage and host events on its Web site, such as runs, walks, golf tournaments and auctions, and a separate system for donor management.
DFCI wanted to integrate the transaction and payment information from events into its donor-management system. Using an on-demand export
created for the organization, it is now able to export online and offline donor transactions from its events database into its central donor database on a daily basis, saving the organization time and energy.
The integration also enabled DFCI to add a donor designation option, which allows donors to direct their gifts to a specific campaign; a deposit date data field for check donations; and a payment date. The integration enables the organization to keep its data where it will be used.
By integrating donor information housed in two disconnected systems, fundraisers at BCF and DFCI are able to get a holistic view of constituents — understand their total relationship to the organization — which enables more effective communications and relationship building.
The next time you hear the phrases “data integration” or “on-demand export,” don’t run the other way. Database integrations are critical to fundraising efforts when valuable donor information also is stored
in locations besides your system of record. Just think — integrated data means making your job easier and more effective. Those are words no fundraising professional will run away from.
Harry E. Gruber, M.D., is CEO of Kintera.