The hallway led to a back room, grey walls and no windows. In the corner of the quiet room was a desk with a computer and the staff member diligently typing. The leader touring me through, led me out and, almost in passing, said quietly, “That is just our database department.”
Discussing the problems of getting people to donate to her organization, the leader’s obvious frustration was seen on her furrowed brow. When I asked her which database she uses, the size of the donor base and the reporting used, she muttered, “I have no clue.”
These are the types of answers I get over and over. In leadership, using terms like strategy, execution, mission and branding make leaders drool with desire. Who doesn’t like a good strategy session or branding workshop. But what you won’t hear as often is the importance of the database.
It’s not as appealing to think about the vortex of database donor information. Yet, this is literally the lifeblood of an organization. Show me a financially strong organization and I’ll bet they guard and use their database of donor information well.
Look at what vital work the blood in our body does. And let’s connect that to how a database is the lifeblood for your organization.
Blood transports important nutrients throughout the body. Your database should have new donors coming in, while information is constantly updated to communicate and thank donors often.
Blood regulates certain values in the body to keep things in balance. A database helps you see if donations are in balance. If donors are only giving in small amounts, do you strategize to increase gift amounts? If you have a few churches giving, how do you grow your individual donor gifts? If you see more people not giving than giving, how do you regulate retention?
Blood speeds healing and clotting to protect the body from injury. This is what a database can offer that many leaders do not consider. Protecting an organization from vulnerability during economic or community changes, can be foreseen and strategy planned by pulling the right data and analyzing the right reports from the database.
This is an important metaphor for you. If the above illustration sounds too tedious or too foreign to you, then start with understanding the basics of what a database provides for your organization. I mean more than donor information and receipts. If you are not using database information to report and strategize, you are missing out on valuable tools. Guard your database and those that grow it. It can truly impact every area of your organization.
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