Implementing an Existing Database Software or Service
There are a lot of database applications that exist, both out-of-the-box installations, and SaaS (Software as a Service) applications that organizations use over the web. How do you manage an implementation of a database product or service? How do you get get the feedback and input from important stakeholders, work with the vendor, get people trained, and make sure it all happens well before that essential year end report is due? We'll share experiences, ideas and best practices.
Everyone introduces themselves.
Robert, independent strategy consultant. Helps clients choose new software, deciding on how get data in and out of systems. Got a start cleaning up a donor database. I no longer do it anymore because implementations can take years.
Planning and implementation are very different tasks. As a consultant you really need to be a speciality in one product (Salesforce, CiviCRM, etc.) in order to effectively implement a system, whereas a consultant can really help an organization choose. The consultant has then already dealt with the issues that are going to come up, decisions that have to be made, and not having to learn a system at the same time.
The most successful implementations have a dedicated internal project manager. It can work with consultants for small projects, but you can't outsource your decision making. The project manager has to be able to dedicate as much time as possible to the implementation of the database.
It's important to get everyone's input to building a system. You need the fundraisers to say what they need, what reports does the board need, how easy is it to make changes?
Ongoing training and support after the project is complete. The software isn't frozen in time when you go live.
- User buy-in
Get everyone who will use the system after you go live will be excited to use it. The people who will benefit from the system should be your supporters and advocates.
Having a commitment from the ED on down. It's important that the project manager has full support of the organization.
Successful implementation projects
- Define functionality needs
- Dedicated project manager
- Have one person to deal with on the clients side
- Once a project goes off schedule it's really hard to get back on schedule
- Block out the same time every week to check in on the process
- Having a good plan for freezing data
- Going back
- Sometimes it's ok to go back to Excel
Choosing a platform
The synthesis that are out there are not sufficient to really choose.
Are the packages relational? Integration with newsletter, calendar, website, etc. Especially for small non-profits, because start-up money is difficult to find. You need the donors to give you money but you can't get them to donate without targeting them with the database.
- Steps of choosing
1. Needs assessment 2. What are your top priorities? 3. What are the deal-breakers? (If it cant' do this one thing we can't use it) 4. Identify vendors 5. Somehow reduce it to a small pool of vendors, ideally to three. An RFP (request for proposal) is the most common way to do it. 6. Software demos. Get the vendors to demonstrate the needs that you've identified. 7. Usability testing. Make sure you like how it accomplishes the requirements. 8. Site visits. Go see the software in action, other clients of the vendors 9. Pick one.
It's difficult to just see what else is out there. Even site visits don't necessarily turn up positive feedback.
What's Out There
Filemaker is working. But is there others out there. There is also a donor plugin for Filemaker, it's free if you join their online community.
Ebase has gone through a number of owners but has been let go.
Idealware has a number of lists of donor databases. But the feedback is minimal.
Giftworks (Mission Research). $400 per computer and there are no real limits. It integrates with Quickbooks. It doesn't have a built in online module but you can import online donations. Lots of beautiful reporting.
Citysoft. Geared towards municipalities. Online association management. Not all that strong on donor management, but better with member management and communications.
- Neon (Z2 systems)
- Kind of scrappy, it's fairly new. But great technical support
- DonorPro (Tower Care)
- Telosa will host their database for you (Exceed!)
Eric Leland runs a workshop about implementing inexpensive donor databases.
A few other notes
A few other notes by Jude: As a consultant – better to be a specialist in a particular project. Salesforce Net community Razor’s Edge (more expensive; clients have in house tech people) Giftworks. Conversions from access and excel. Etc.
Niche: fundraising, case management. Firms do more than one. Separate planning from implementation.
Implementation – specialist in one product. decisions. Versus earning product, landmines,
Help the client do the testing – interpretation back to the software person. Go-between. Translation role. Generalist trouble shooter role.
1. One dedicated internal project manager. Making decisions. 2. PM has to dedicate as much time to project as possible. Urgent, deadline driven. DDbase take a lot of time/energy. Staff relief. Allocate the resources. 3. It takes a village. Not
ADD TO NOTES: Colin: What - have a better understanding of the system your using. - Understand the pitfalls that come up. - CVSRM in Drupal? - moving target - compiling different access database. - Needed static (versus active) dbases to work with. - Thinking thru comprehensive process of what to freeze and what to let stay active. - Conversion – getting a full copy of data to convert. - Client freeze copy of dbase. - Can’t figure out the problem unless data is static.
E- TAPESTRY. SALESFORCE
Grassroots fundraising links. Tech soup matrices.
Filemaker. Free version called E-base orphan project. Not supported. Groundspring let it go.
Idealware. Lists ..Top ten of each. Membership organization. Donations module for filemaker. Now have to be a member. Net community.
NEON z-2systems. Integrated system. 4 years old. Risky versus something that’s been around a long time. Versus idealware.
CVCRM – actively working on it. Responsive developers. Affordable. Open source. Free. Hosted version.
Eric. Tech Underground.
Project management. Excel. Unless you have too much.