Nonprofits use databases to handle volunteers, donors, staff, and more.
For smaller nonprofits, a database may be nothing more than an Excel file. Medium to large nonprofits might have an IT staff and a simple database, designed by the in-house development team. However, nonprofit technology is booming and your organization might be looking for a more sustainable, automated management solution.
Dean Graham, Tech Impact's Senior Manager of Application Services, has been working closely with nonprofits for 6 years, consulting on topics ranging from business continuity to applications. When it comes to database management, Graham finds that nonprofits are not necessarily looking for more staff, but better tools to manage their growing donor lists.
"Smaller nonprofits are looking for automation and consistency when it comes to a database, but many don't have the resources to maintain their current database system," Graham explained, adding that Foundations are in need of a system that can grow with their data.
The best database systems do not necessarily have more tools, but more high-level qualities.
Graham shared some of the top qualities a good database system should have:
Does your nonprofit's database facilitate workflow or create more work?
A good database integrates with an organization's workflow, allowing for donor communication directly from the platform, reminders, instant access to account records, and even notes or appointments. A good system is one that makes maintenance easy.
Can you trust the information in your CRM, and does it still ring true to your organization's initiatives?
Smaller nonprofits, and even larger ones, are constantly evolving as they find their captive audience and grow their voice. However, if the database cannot evolve with the nonprofit it can become a hazard to donor relations if the information is incorrect or out of date.
Who manages the database?
Building donor relationships relies heavily on a nonprofit's staff. If the database cannot be easily shared, the small but important details might be lost in the shuffle. Smaller nonprofits might have 1 or 2 database managers and hold weekly meetings to get the status of fundraising efforts and update donor and sponsor information. This can be difficult for donor relations staff to keep track of throughout week, and reference over time.
Does your CRM help you build and maintain relationships?
As a nonprofit, your CRM should enable your organization to grow by automating most activities, allowing more time to be spent maintaining long-term donors and engaging new donors. In contrast, some CRMs might be too bulky for a smaller organization, resulting in more time being devoted to keeping it updated.
Are your records backed up and protected?
Security is a growing concern in the tech community. Some nonprofits use on-site servers to handle their organization's data while others opt for the cloud. Either way, you should ensure that all data is backed up, recoverable, and protected from outside interference and security breaches.
Do you have a dedicated IT team or need a reliable third-party service?
Not all nonprofits have the luxury of an on-site IT unit to handle new systems, training, and maintenance. Reliable, long-term support is an invaluable asset for any application, software, or service.
Image courtesy of The Connected Cause.