Database are extremely useful in simplifying business operations, communication, and workflow for both the for-profit sector and nonprofit sector. Nonprofits and charities use databases to manage donor, volunteer, and B2B profiles and aggregate data. However, database are also used for storing records, files, other types of information.
In fact, most organizations would find it difficult to continue operating without a good database, as organizations deal with a multitude of data and information. But of course, a good database can go down-hill if it is not properly maintained.
Here are a few tips you might not have considered when it comes to maintaining your database.
Keep it clean
Duplicate files, profiles, and other data are common for every organization. But let these little duplicates hang around too long and you'll have multiple files, each with slightly different information because no one will know which is the most recent or official version. Even if the latest version is timestamped, allowing duplicates to hang around can becoming confusing, decrease the speed of the database, and make it harder to find information via a database search.
Let's not for get the multiple files you might have on one donor or volunteer. Say you connect with these supporters through social media, email, your website, a 3rd party site, or in-person at an event; each interaction results in a new addition of information to the database. One donor might have 5 or more partial profiles in your database! Take time, at least once a year to merge donor and volunteer profiles, eliminating duplicates along the way. Also look into a database that is specifically geared toward donor and volunteer information, such as constituent relationship management (CRM) system.
An important part of data security is auditing your database's information. What don't you need to keep anymore? Expired donor credit cards are a great example of data that should be purged from your systems.
This is also a time to review access levels; that is account managers, administrators, and users. Have employees left your nonprofit, but still have account access? Do too many people have writing and editing access to your database that don't NEED it? What is your quality control--who is the gatekeeper of information going in?
Most databases will allow you to customize and assign account access.
Make your database easier to search by standardizing the terms and data. Phone numbers, for example, can be formatted a number of ways, such as (302) 123-4567, 3021234567, 1-302-123-4567, and etc., but allowing the variety can make searching more difficult.
In addition, there are so many ways to say the same thing and everyone has their own preference. For documents especially, most people include the date, title of the file, and perhaps some combination of their name or initials in the file name to show who last edited the file, when it was changed, and what it is. This is great, but makes searching for the right file name exceedingly difficult. Define a standard, such as official file name + mmddyyyy + 2 initials. You might get something like this: Grant-Application-11262013-PJ.doc.
Keep a record of maintenance
It's importance to schedule and keep track of database maintenance and audits. Also, keep a log of duplicates, merges, files, and constituent profiles and create goals for the next year. Keeping a record might help you improve workflow over time and create better standards.