Hands Off ... It's My Data!
A charitable organization has many stakeholders to communicate with and to nurture. Be they donors, advocates, service users, media, members or volunteers, you need to keep tabs on them all. But like in all organizations, each department has unique needs when it comes to what information they need to store in the database about their stakeholders, so it seems reasonable to assume that you would have a separate database for each department — tailored to its needs. Until you realize that, actually, some people begin to appear in multiple databases. A donor can also be a volunteer, a member and even a service user.
That’s where it all starts to go wrong. A significant amount of information about a person is common across all databases —for example, the name, address and contact details. Yet a person’s address is updated in one database but not the others. Each department sends out its own communications independently, a silo mentality develops and notions of ownership take hold.
The natural conclusion then is that one database for the whole organization — that crucially meets the specific needs of each department — is the best way to go. And in the case of the fundraisers that responded to the recent Lehman survey of fundraising databases, that’s where most people are. The report shows that 71 percent of respondents stated that they used an organizationwide database, which is interesting because almost 80 percent said that they thought a dedicated, fundraising-specific database software would have greater capabilities.
So it seems that fundraising departments at least are seeing that a single database is for the greater good over departmental needs. Furthermore, the costs of having two databases outweigh the benefits: The report shows that the greatest challenges of separate systems are passing data between the systems to keep them up-to-date, or worse, re-keying that information. So most don’t. And if they don’t how, will they ever get the 360-degree view of each donor they were promised?