Databases as Mirrors

Over the past month, I have had the opportunity to work with a client on reimagining how they are using their Salesforce database.  At the request of the organizational leader, we have started with some of the low hanging fruit challenges that need immediate fixing.  Simultaneously, the project lead and I have been picking up rocks (aka much bigger challenges) and finding a whole lot of mess under each one.

After 20 years of working in fundraising software, this does not surprise me at all.

And here’s why…

Databases are merely a reflection of an organization.  The good.  The bad.  The changes. The growth.  Every decision that was made, even in organizations with excellent data management tools, was done so to fulfill an external goal.  Data does not exist in a vacuum.  It was put in a place within a tool much like we put away our coats and shoes at the end of the day.  And we pull the information back out in a way, often, determined by leadership to fulfill external metrics and demands.

When you undertake a database clean up project it causes mirrors to pop up in the most unexpected places.  We are forced, as organizations, to look closely at why we are doing what we are doing.  What our goals are.  How systems and processes and relationships between coworkers line up.  That’s part of why it’s so hard.  And also part of why it is so important.

Today’s fundraising market is huge.  Competing demands internally and boards with high goals and changing donor demographics and generations who look at information differently are all shifting how we do business.

What can you do TODAY to reimagine your database and how it can help you grow? 

Pretend you are a martian.  Really.  It’s that hard and it’s that easy.  Take a step back from the data entry or goal setting or donor outreach you are doing and look at your database tab by tab, asking the following questions:

  1. Does this tab capture everything we need to know about our constituents?
  2. Is the information in here helpful to me as I do my work?
  3. What do I wish I knew that is not captured?
  4. Do I understand what the purpose of this tab is and why we use it the way we do?

When you are done think of ONE actionable thing you can do to improve the situation.  Can you add more information after your 1:1 meetings?  Do you need to admit you need training to improve your work?  Do you need to gather a team and start making a wish list COLLABORATIVELY with those who are in the data every day?

Hold up the mirror.  Look at how powerful you can be with better information.  Find it, grow it, use it — And go raise a whole bunch of money for your organization.

Want to talk about your organization’s database?  Click here to schedule a time to brainstorm with me.

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