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How to manage fund development data

February 6, 2012

DeDe Chaoui, Director of Development Information & Systems at the Milwaukee Art Museum, presented to the AFP-Greater Milwaukee Chapter “Under 40” group on the topic of data management, which is so important in our work as fundraisers.  Her recommendations on database security and rights, information capture, reports, and policies and procedures are things every development office should keep in mind.  

Database Security & Rights: This is often overlooked, but is crucial to the consistency, integrity and confidentiality of your data.  Limit the access to records and functions to only the necessary users.  When determining the restrictions, be sure to have a plan, be consistent and create policies/procedures to supplement the plan.  If you have a limited number of users, consider grouping users based on function or position.

Information Capture:  Overall, always remember “garbage in, garbage out”.  To ensure that the data that is being captured and entered into the database is the data that will actually be used, create a standard form to be completed and make it available to all agency staff.  If a lot of data/constituents are being collected, consider setting a policy that if information is collected, it must be used in a certain amount of time otherwise (ie. 60 days) it shouldn’t be entered into the database.  Consider purging records with no activity after about eight years; however, never purge records of people and organizations who have given a donation.  Again, always have a plan and be consistent!

Reports:  Rarely does the database offer exactly what is needed at all times, so instead of retyping data from one report to another, consider using other readily available programs on your desktop to combine and analyze data.  Such programs include excel, access, etc. 

Policies & Procedures:  Although very few of us seem to ever have time to develop policies, procedures and manuals, these are extremely important to the consistency and efficiency of our work.  Consider starting to develop these as you do the work.  The format and text can be simple! Be sure to ‘time stamp’ all documents and have others review the documents (both those that are and are not familiar with the systems).  Consider creating policies and procedures for atypical processes (ie. stock gifts, etc).

Does your fundraising shop have any data management procedures you find particularly useful?  

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