It was Professor Plum, in the library, with the database

Databases have it tough. Like the dog who ate your homework and the ibis who stole your lunch, the database is at fault. You can’t fundraise enough, count the kids or track service outcomes because your database is standing in the way. If only you had a decent database, you’d be able to answer the CEO when he asked how many people had received service this year; you’d know if demand was rising; if service recipients in particular regions were unhappy; if changing your Christmas appeal to include a bauble made a difference, if the cat was going to be sick on the carpet or the tiles and probably even if the shot really came from the grassy knoll.

Now let’s face it. There are a lot of databases out there worthy of scorn and condemnation. (Though this data monkey won’t name them!) However many are not the rotten to the core beast we make them out to be. Often it’s a combination of flaws in database design and deficits in usage.

Don’t despair. There is an upside. The next time the media guy comes and hassles you wanting to know when the next medical breakthrough is here so your charity can get some profile, tell him there are miracles under your noses. Here are just a few of the miracles I’ve encountered just by opening a database.

To start with there’s little Lucy. She’s getting a weekly service from a physiotherapist and an early childhood specialist. Now when we say it’s important to start intervention early, Lucy’s parents took us very seriously. Lucy is way ahead of the game. She’s doing remarkably well given she’s not even born until 2013. Not wanting to favour the young, I must point out the miracle of modern medicine in extending the average Australia’s lifespan. There’s not just a handful of people in Australia who are 111 years old. There are hundreds if not thousands of them. And do you know the weirdest thing? They were all born on the 1st of January. In fact, each year more people are born on the 1st of January than any other day of the year. It’s quite remarkable.

Then there’s the naming trends the baby books are not capturing. I bet if you check the latest trends in kids names you’ll find Emma, Isabella, Aiden, Jackson and Noah. Wrong! There’s a far more common name: Anon. It’s like the phone number that many people share. I bet you thought that those smart phone numbers were only for businesses. Forget 1300 RATPACK, there’s a speed dial that oodles of Australians use. In fact there’s a few: TBC, TBA, NOP, SILENT, DEAF and my favourite – CALL WIFE!

If that isn’t enough, you can always try your hand at unique salutations. Forget Dear Mr and Mrs Smith. That’s just old hat. How about you go for some informality and adopt first name. Dear ‘Kate’, Dear ‘Mary’, Dear ‘Robert (Bob)’, Dear ‘Thelma prefers Joy’, Dear ‘& Mrs Smith’, Dear ‘Giuseppe aka Joe’. Aka is becoming a very popular middle name. Lastly, my favourite: Dear Johnathon (deceased).

Oops. Oh dear. Gasp. Horror.

It’s alright, it’s the crappy database. Don’t sweat. We’re getting a new one. That will fix everything.

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Posted on May 26, 2011, in Data, Not for Profit and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I know it should not be funny when data bases are full of junk, but some of these are priceless.

  2. what’s that old saying? a hammer is only as useful as the idiot wielding it?

    Blessed be that redundant text field that someone, one day, finds a myriad uses for ….

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