The ongoing campaign to ban Barry

Have I mentioned recently how dodgy my fundraising database is? Barry is at serious risk of being bashed over the head with a tyre iron. Yes, you didn’t know that data monkeys could be violent, did you? Well, we can.

Given this acute grumpiness I engaged in a moment of reflection this evening.

I’ve had poor data before. I’ve had databases – fundraising and clinical – with all the wit and charm of Peter Reith – why is this particular fundraising database different?

I think it’s because his days are numbered. If it was just the idea of getting a new donor database, I’d remind myself that it would be eons away. Yet, Barry’s replacement is on the horizon and so I become more and more irritated with him each day.

This is far from helpful given I’m trying to convince staff who have severe Barry avoidance issues, that they must open him up and use him! They point at the names the database spat out and say: ‘see, look how useless this data is.’ I want to answer, ‘well of course Barry thinks Harold Holt is still the Prime Minister. That’s how long since anyone put any decent data in him!’

How can I business possibly survive this way?

Easy. It’s called the Excel spreadsheet to the rescue. When your database isn’t as helpful as you’d like, make an excel spreadsheet. It won’t do any harm. I promise. It’s just ONE little mailing list.

If it truly were just one little mailing list, it would probably be ok. However these excel spreadsheets become endemic and pretty soon you’re wondering why your donor database is 3 Premiers behind reality.

In the defence of these excel spreadsheet masterminds, they do it because all too often the fundraising database isn’t up to the task. If Barry could send an email, they wouldn’t have this separate email / SMS list. If he knew how to remind them to ring a Major Donor, they wouldn’t have the outlook reminder, or the paper diary, or worse, no reminder at all.

What? No Reminder? How can that happen? Well, we all know that the email alert, the post-it note on your computer screen, the ‘write it on your hand and don’t have a bath’ method can all be effective… until you change staff.

I recall a gentleman I once worked with at the Free the Flamingo Foundation. This guy was a seasoned fundraiser, joining the Organisation full of hope and enthusiasm. Early on, he asked me to generate a list of the Organisation’s major donors.

‘Anyone who has given over $50k (single gift) and then, if there aren’t enough of those maybe $20k’.

Knowing what was in the donor database, I answered quickly: ‘It’s going to be a bloody short list’.

He wasn’t impressed!

So the criteria got knocked further and further down. We got to the point where we had found the mass. Turns out lots of people gave $1,000 to help the flamingoes. Yet that was the problem, there was a mass of donors at the $1,000 mark and almost no one above it. Where does one start?

He would ask me sensible questions like ‘tell me which ones we’ve had the most contact with?’ or ‘which ones are the most connected?’, or ‘who has attended a recent event?’ and it was my duty to disappoint him again by revealing such information was – at best – in the notes and we’d need to employ the text fairy – and at worst – in the heads of people who no longer worked there.

This I have decided this is the 11th reason why Major Gift Programs Suck: we consistently fail to plan for changing staff by documenting well. (To read the original 10, check out the thought-provoking series: ’10 Reasons Why Most Major Gift Programs Suck’ on the Passionate Giving blog. Highly recommended.)

I wish I could tell you that the Free the Flamingo Foundation solved this issue. Alas not. In fact, my seasoned fundraiser repeated the seasoned mistake and after a year or so of relationship development, he too walked out the door with the knowledge in his head.


Posted on July 4, 2011, in Data, Fundraising, Major Donors, Not for Profit and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Excellent 11th Reason. I’ve run into this so many times. I’ve seen MGO’s who write their information in a notebook and never enter it into a database! Crazy.

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