Why Donor Databases are Like Wardrobes

12/11/2016 9:42 PM | Ed Graziano (Administrator)

By: Bonnie Massa, Massa & Company, Inc.
Here’s a cautionary tale.

A social services organization called me because its case management database no longer provided useful reports for case workers—or the statistical information funders wanted.

My research, which included interviewing all of the program staff and reviewing their existing system, indicated the system was left unattended (not updated) for many years and couldn’t be fixed at a reasonable cost. We looked at four solutions that would fulfill their current needs: all costing $50,000 to $90,000 over five years. That’s hard to swallow when you haven’t devoted a dime to your system in eight years.
I understand their sticker shock. Unfortunately, they had put themselves in a difficult place. The organization couldn’t attract new funders—or keep the current ones happy—without a new system, nor could they afford it. So they set out to raise $75,000. That was 11 months ago …

Why am I telling you this? Because I want you to treat your fundraising, membership or case management data system as if it’s your wardrobe. You can’t do your job without it (just imagine!) so it’s an essential asset. The same is true for data management systems, if you must capture information to achieve your mission, raise funds or manage membership!

We don’t wear our work clothes threadbare and then buy a totally new wardrobe every eight years. Most of us buy clothes annually or seasonally, replacing what doesn’t fit or goes out of style with new pieces that meet our needs and keep us current.

Do the same thing for your data system. It needs annual attention to continue to “fit” your organization. This means the cost of maintaining/updating it should be in your annual operating budget. Also include in your annual operations budget any staff training on how to use the system. Even the best one is worthless if the last person who knows how to use it has left the building.

Spending a limited amount of money every year sure beats the pants off $50,000+ in one year! Find more about donor database selection from Massa & Company!

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