Ruthellen Rubin
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Consulting for Nonprofits and Philanthropies


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We offer the expertise, resources and personalized attention to help your nonprofit organization realize its full potential. Our team also works with philanthropies to help build strong partnerships.

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The Nonprofit Blog

Learn to Love your Donor Database

I have had lots of discussions lately with development professionals who are considering migrating to new donor databases.  Often, because:  they never learned to use the one they have, their data is a mess, someone else chose the software and they inherited it, they don't know how to generate the reports their board members are requesting or because they lost the phone number for tech support.  What a can of worms!

Before you jump ship, do your homework to figure out exactly what functionality your organization needs and set real goals for the tasks you want to manage with your database.  Next - get on the phone with tech support and find out if this can be achieved via your current database.  Be prepared to spend time and money to get this right.  It will be the best time and money you can spend from your development budget.  

 If you decide to investigate new software, read Idealware's latest consumer's guide to donor management systemsIdealware.org is a phenomenal resource for all things having to do with nonprofit software.  Then, get on the phone and call colleagues who are using the software you are considering. You will only learn the nitty gritty from someone who is using the system.

A new database will not cure messy data -- you will just be importing that mess into your new software. Face up to it and create a plan to clean it manually or develop and commit to a style sheet that will build a database of high integrity going forward.  

Nine times out of ten, the problem is not the current software but the lack of training to understand how the software can help build a sustainable fund development program.  I'm looking forward to seeing what's new and what I can learn later this week  at #14NTC.

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