Monday, January 10, 2011

5 Innovative Challenges for Your Database Team for 2011

If you manage a database team, or you are part of a database team at a charity, then why not challenge yourself this year and do something a bit different and innovative! The suggestions below will take time and commitment and maybe even some financial input, but I believe that you and your organisation would get excellent benefits out of them (and slightly different from the norm). They are probably best suited to charities who have a bit of manpower in their database team and a reasonable sized user-base, but even if your organisation doesn’t fit that model then you could still adapt them to your own structure.

And even if you don’t like my suggestions, what about thinking of alternative but new and different challenges of your own? Share any you come up with in the Comments section below this post.


5 innovative challenges for your database team

1) Hold an Internal User Conference. i.e. In the same way that your database supplier might hold an annual conference for their customers. Put aside a day (or a half day if a whole day is too much) and have a couple of 'streams' of seminars, invite users to speak at some sessions, invite a keynote speaker (try your supplier, ask a funder, invite me!), consider workshops or one-to-one "consultancy sessions" and of course put aside time for coffee and networking. Yes it will definitely take some serious organisation, yes it could cost to do it and yes it could be a challenge to get managers to let all your users go, but, hey, it wouldn't be a challenge otherwise!

2) Spend a day in a data/database department at a commercial organisation, learning what they do and how they practise database management. We can be very insular in the charity sector, and although I know plenty of NFPs who run wonderfully good database teams, we could definitely learn from for-profit companies too. Ask your fundraisers if any of their contacts, sponsors, funders etc might be up for helping, or just use your own contacts – we all have friends who work in large companies and other sectors. One thing you could consider is not simply selecting a company “similar” to your charity, i.e. a bank or a retail organisation. Why not try somewhere completely different? A leisure centre, a construction company, a vet! Surely we can learn something from other such industries. And if you have a large enough database team, send different people to companies in different sectors and then compare notes.

3) Think of new ways to use all the data fields which you already store in your database. I have done this a few times (admittedly with varying degrees of success!) but it’s always interesting, even if it’s just as an ice-breaker for a meeting. For example, why do we store an individual's first name? Just so we can write to them? Boring! Think of something else. How else could we benefit from knowing someone’s first name? How could we use that data/information? And what about your other fields - Date of birth? A job title, zip code/postcode, first gift date etc etc. Brainstorm. Who knows what it could lead to.

4) Dedupe your entire database, just for once! Now that would be a challenge… Can we ever say that we have no dupes in our database?!

5) Do some brand new data analysis on areas never looked at before on your database. So often, database teams are asked to do specific data analysis by fundraisers because of specific campaigns, or because we/they know (or we think we know) that tried and tested analysis techniques work. Which is fine and should of course be followed. But try instead, for example, to test whether there is any correlation between 2 or more factors/data items on your database which your fundraisers have never thought of using/comparing. Compare fields and data against each other, against time, against demographics, income and so on. This might well involve a lot of data mining to come up with anything new and useful, but if you do find something then that might create a whole new fundraising opportunity or income stream. Fundraisers are not data or database experts – you are; so don’t rely on just being reactive to their requests, be pro-active and think of some ideas yourself.

No comments: