Data Systems: What Data Do You Collect & How Do You Manage It?

April 27, 2015

Guest Blog by Sarah McCruden, Technology and Information Specialist, Carson Research Consulting

Join Sarah Wednesday, May 6th to learn how to select the best software for your specific needs, organize your program data & more! Learn more…

“I’ve got program data. What should I do with it?”

It’s a question that I’m asked fairly often as a database specialist, and the answer is not as straightforward as you might think. While database software designed specifically for nonprofits is available, most of the programs I encounter have found that the “one size fits all” approach most database companies take hasn’t been such a great fit after all, and there are a lot of factors to consider in choosing the right software. But don’t be discouraged, there are solutions that can actually work, and they may cost less than you think.

To begin with, think about your constraints: Are you working with a very small budget? Do you have staff experienced in the nuances of database design and querying best practices who have time to dedicate to this system—or do you have the funds to hire someone who does? There are lots of things that can influence your choice of data systems, and you should start by identifying your priorities.

In the end, sometimes something as simple as an Excel workbook or Google Sheets workbook may suffice, provided your information is organized and collected in the right way. In other cases, constituent relationship management (CRM) software is a good fit, or a commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) software solution.

If you’re looking for answers on how to organize and store your data—whether it be smaller datasets or more large and complex ones—I invite you to come to an event hosted by Maryland Nonprofits on May 6, 2015where I will be speaking about Data Systems. Whether your current data solution is an unmanageable database, or you’re still working from paper records and keeping count in your head, we can find a better solution, and you’ll engage in a lively discussion on how to overcome your data challenges along the way.


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