[Publisher’s note: This article was provided by Blackbaud, a maker of fundraising software. Blackbaud is a PJ business partner.]
Managing your data
As part of managing a database, you need standards around how you capture data.
One of the first areas an organization needs to focus on is a policy and procedures manual.
To develop a policy-and-procedures manual, an organization needs to form a working group of individuals who know the procedure of how the data is collected.
This information then needs to be formulated into work flows that can be followed so that no steps are missed in the entry of the data.
A policy-and-procedures manual will also help when you have new employees because it will lay out the step-by-step process for entry of the data.
An organization should also develop a data-standards guide.
This is different than a policy-and-procedures manual in that it will outline how the data in different fields should be standardized.
An example is when the constituent name is entered, the guide will help you know whether to enter the formal or informal name.
The data-standards guide should also define the values of the look-up tables.
Look-up tables allow users entering data to select a list of values stored in a table.
It is very important to keep the look-up tables to a core set of values to make reporting and pulling data from your database easier.
If you have multiple values in a table that are basically the same, combine the entries down to a single entry.
In the world today, it is very important to protect your data.
It is the responsibility of the organization to protect the constituent data collected.
There are two areas of security that we need to consider.
We need to protect the data from the outside world by storing information behind a firewall to stop unauthorized access to the data from hackers.
The security of the data within the organization needs to be considered as well.
Staff members need access only to the data needed to perform their duties.
One area not to overlook in setting up security is the entry of new look-up table values.
The ability to add new values should be limited to a core group of users so that the look-up tables remain clean.
Develop a plan in case of a disaster and part of this plan should be how the database is being backed up.
Most database software allows you to schedule backup of your database.
The database should be backed up on a nightly basis.
You should also have a plan of off-site storage of these backups.
It does no good to store the backup onsite if the building that contents the backup is destroyed.
Your database can be an asset to your organization and with the right tools and techniques it can be effective and necessary.
Data is a valuable asset to any organization.
By collecting data about your constituents, you are able to track and report valuable information about the constituents using your services and about additional services constituents may use.