The Mikuska Group  

Fear and loathing: Databases

What comes to mind when someone mentions “database”? Do your eyes glaze over? Do you curl into the foetal position? Scream in frustration? Think that someone is talking about a spreadsheet?

You’re not alone. Many non-profit organizations have had little to no experience with a database, let alone success. A database seems to be shrouded in mystery, hidden behind a ubiquitous fog that seems impenetrable. When it comes to extracting the data to use in a mailout, or – horrors! – analyze your donor base, you muck through as best you can and say a little prayer to the gods of IT that your results are reliable.

I’m here to say that it doesn’t have to be that way.

It’s worth the investment to engage a professional who knows what they are doing to teach you good practices and principles of data management. Good data is the underpinning of a great fundraising program. Notice I said good data, because as the saying goes, garbage in, garbage out. You have to pay attention to what you enter into your database and how you do it. Make sure you have someone who is familiar with the principles of fundraising, so you can tailor your learning to maximize the use of your database.

Some examples of what a data management program can help you accomplish:

  • track total donations for each donor/household
  • let you find out if you’re losing donors and take action
  • identify donors who you may be able to approach and ask to be a monthly donor
  • track activities that engage donors – did they attend the gala? Come to your open house? Meet with the board chair? Use this information to further engage them in your work
  • choose which donors will receive a special mailing based on their donation history

Your data is as important as your staff. You can’t be effective if you don’t know who your donors are. Make the investment – the results will speak for themselves.

Laura Mikuska




fear and loathing – (Hunter S. Thompson) A state inspired by the prospect of dealing with certain real-world systems and standards that are totally brain-damaged but ubiquitous – Intel 8086s,COBOL, EBCDIC, or any IBM machine except the Rios (also known as the RS/6000).



Blog Archives

Articles By Category