I have a confession to make, I love databases. I’ve tried to ignore it for years but there’s just no escaping both my love of having things ordered, categorised and retrievable and the knowledge that well managed information is almost certainly at the heart of an effective organisation.
I ran a series of seminars last year for CEOs and trustees to help them think about how technology could be used to weather the current financial storm and one of the main aspects I focussed on was management of information, whether about staff, clients, donors, projects or funders.
The problem with databases is that they’re such a huge investment, both financially and in terms of buy in from staff. If you don’t get every step of the process right you’re likely to end up with a system that no one uses and so doesn’t work for your organisation.
In my session I suggested a few things that could help to make the process a success:
- Spend some time reviewing how you keep and use information in your organisation. Involve staff at all levels across the organisation in this discussion.
- Think about who your relationships are with. Are you talking to individuals or organisations?
- What kind of information do you use in your organisation and therefore what do you need to record? Do you need contact details? Financial details? Events they attend? Services people have used? Case histories?
- What kind of information do you need to extract for management reporting? What is being asked of you by funders or trustees?
- Talk to everyone in the organisation about how they use data, particularly those that will be responsible for inputting it.
- Keep it simple – don’t collect information you don’t need and remember that no one will use an over-complicated system.
The reason for my database musings is that I was at the Lasa CRM Summit last week, a showcase of three CRM systems; Salesforce, CiviCRM and Microsoft Dynamics.
All three systems have much of the same customer relationship functionality so which system is best for you – or one of the many other systems out there – depends on what’s important for your organisation.
CiviCRM has been built for the non profit sector and has a strong community of developers in the UK. There is good integration with Drupal and Joomla websites and it does much of what you would expect for a CRM. It is free to download but you may find that you need to work with a developer to customise it to your needs. There is a hosting charge for CiviCRM, which our speakers thought would be no more than £75 per month.
Microsoft Dynamics can be bought through the CTX scheme and would cost a “few” hundred pounds for charities. There is of course easier integration with existing systems if an organisation is using Microsoft products.
Salesforce is available to charities through the Salesforce Foundation; 10 free, active licenses to start with and then there’s an 80% discount on each subsequent one, about £240 per/ year for charities. The key selling points appear to be that all hosting, updates etc are done by Salesforce and are included in the license charge.
I didn’t come away from the event thinking that any one of these systems is better than the other as it depends on what you want it to do, but I thought you might find these little snippets useful.
If you do need some info on databases then the Knowledgebase is a great place to start: www.ictknowledgebase.org.uk/buyingadatabase.