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Data belongs to the organisation… not to you :)

For Lazaro Maisler

In order to have a successful fundraising strategy, social organisations have one of the most important and fundamental assets: their databases. But this asset is often undervalued and neglected by NGOs where the following situations happen:

  • Duplicated, triplicated or “n”-plicated databases: the same data is a board member´s friend, collaborator, volunteer, supplier and family member.
  • Each individual data is held by the person in charge of an area and is not shared…
  • Data are stored in a variety of formats as dissimilar as paper, excel, access, word, google docs, etc.
  • Ineffective communication: several communications are sent to the same person, “I can’t or I forget to record who, what and when I sent something” and so on.
  • They do not have a process in place to generate witness data groups to measure the campaign effectiveness.
  • They do not link donations with campaigns and cannot evaluate them, often due to lack of knowledge.

What, after all, is a database? According to the great Wikipedia, by definition:

  • “A database is a set of data belonging to the same context and systematically stored for later use.”

That is to say that an Excel worksheet with 2 records, our paper agendas, a library, and the address book of a webmail constitute a database.

Seen this way, friends, partners, the board of directors, suppliers, event attendees, people who write to us, call us, visit us, customers, etc, are they a database? Yes, of course. That is why it is essential for our fundraising management to be successful to have adequate planning of our databases.

And within our organisations, who is the owner of those databases?

The DATABASE(s) belong to the organisation, they are NOT yours because your collected them. The organisation’s efforts cannot rely on a person or gadget. .

It is essential to be clear about this concept, since the people who perform representation and relationship-building tasks with different stakeholders of the organisations, sometimes might forget that the contacts they make, the relationships they build, the bonds they nurture, are all designed to help organisations fulfill their missions. These people are today behind these actions, but might not be tomorrow and although sometimes it is difficult to separate them from those ties, the relationships are not theirs, they belong to the institutions and they have to transcend them .

So in summary, always remember that the DATABASE(s) belongs to the CSO, not you because you gathered them. Your organisation cannot rely on someone specifically for its fundraising relationships. By having a proper database strategy the organisation ensures the development of long-term engagement plans and strong connections between the people who choose the causes we work on and the organisations that carry them out. Because fundraising is all about building strong and enduring relationships, in which the donation is the desired consequence.