How To Track Everyone Who’s Anyone To You: Is A Single Database Right for Your Org?

Posted on February 16, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , |

For any organisation, having internal systems that streamline work processes for staff and assist in building relationships with clients is paramount. Poorly designed or implemented systems can not only cause opportunities to be lost, but may actually hinder growth and cause errors and data mis-management which can lead to duplication of work effort and mixed communications (or no communications) being sent to donors.

Frankly, nonprofits cannot afford to have staff duplicating work and high quality, consistent, relevant communications with donors is key to forging long-term relationships. So, for the nonprofit organisation, getting data management right should be viewed as a very high priority.

This excerpt provides a good background for nonprofits to assess their organisation’s stakeholder situation. It is an interesting read and I would highly recommend you apply these techniques to your own organisation and take a critical look at your current systems to see if they are doing what they need to do to help your organisation to communicate your various messages effectively.

Thanks for the advice, Laura!

Kathie van

How To Track Everyone Who’s Anyone To You: Is A Single Database Right for Your Org?

Since most organizations don’t track just one type of constituent, the idea of a single database for all of them—donors, volunteers, clients, email subscribers, advocates and everyone else—is something of a holy grail. The ability to easily see how all your constituents interact with your organization, and with each other, makes for an attractive, ideal vision of what a database should be.

In reality, a single constituent database usually means some sort of compromise. If your nonprofit tracks a wide variety of constituents but doesn’t need very deep functionality in any particular area, it’s feasible. But if you need to keep tabs on more complex data—like tracking stock gifts from donors, matching volunteers with volunteer opportunities based on interests and availability, and the case notes, histories and outcomes of the mental health services provided to clients—you’re not likely to find a single system to fill all your needs.

If there’s not much overlap between particular constituent groups (for example, your clients aren’t likely to be donors, and your donors aren’t likely to become clients), there may not be enough of an upside to a single database to make it worth your while. For many organizations, multiple systems can be a better fit.

But how do you determine which is the right solution for your nonprofit? We’ve designed a short exercise to help you decide.

Know Your Audience

The first step is to identify all the constituents you deal with on a day-to-day basis. These are the people you need to track. It’s likely you’ll have not just donors and clients, but volunteers, alumni, event attendees, partners, press contacts and other groups. Include them all.

In reality, a single database means some compromise.

Then, choose the constituent group that’s most important for your organization to track—we’ll call them your “Critical Constituent.” For most organizations, this will probably be either donors or clients. (If you have two or three key constituents, you can repeat the exercise for each, but choose one to start with.)

For each of the other constituent groups you identified, determine:

  • Their relationship to your Critical Constituent—how likely are people in one group to be in the other? Might they move between them?
  • The complexity of the data you need to track for them in addition to what you’re already tracking for Critical Constituents—the basics, like name, address and contact information, is probably the same for both, but there’s likely to be additional information.

Using donors as the Critical Constituent for our example, let’s compare them to volunteers as the other constituent group. Are volunteers likely to become donors, or vice versa? Might a volunteer also be a donor? Neither scenario is unusual for many organizations, so we could call these two constituents highly related. As we consider other constituent groups—press contacts, for example, or legislators—we’re likely to find far less overlap.

Next, let’s consider the complexity of the data we’ll need to track for volunteers that we don’t already track for donors. This might include the types of projects they’d like to help with, when they’re available, and their history volunteering with the organization. Because there are more than a few additional fields, this falls somewhere between medium- and high-complexity, depending on the specifics.

Once you’ve defined how complex and related each constituent is, plot your constituent groups on a chart for a look at your overall constituent picture.

You can read the complete article, including examples of mapping your constituent graphs, in the December Issue of NTEN:Change when you subscribe for free.

Source: How To Track Everyone Who’s Anyone To You: Is A Single Database Right for Your Org? – 
Author: By Laura Quinn, Idealware 


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