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The Woo of Data

nonprofit data

Holy cannoli! I sure have been talking a lot about connection lately. In my recent three-post series, I looked at a philosopher, a scientist, and a teacher and explored how their work helps us understand, create, and maintain connection in nonprofit fundraising. Your organization's donor management system is a critical part of this connection equation. Yes, there is woo in your data.

Any donor management system you work with is a relational database. Implied in the term "relational" is of course a relation of one thing to another. Put a different way, a communication is occurring. But what is communicating? What is connecting to create communication or relation? How does the great connection occur?

The three organizing elements in any relational database are some version of records, tabs, and fields. These three components are what create connectedness in your database.

It can help to think of these elements in a hierarchy with records, the largest of them, sitting at the top. Tabs sit in the middle of the hierarchy as a means to further organize records. And fields, the smallest yet most pervasive organizing element, make up the base of the hierarchy.

Depending on the maker of your software the exact names may differ, but fields like constituent code or type, campaign, fund, appeal, and custom fields you may have built are used to create connections, show similarities among constituents in your database.

When building any type of output in your system - reports, lists, exports, mailings for example - you are saying to the database, "Hey database! Go to these record types. Then look on this tab. And then dive into these fields and do this thing I want you to do with what you find." Usually that thing you want the system to do is tally, count, report, export, list or otherwise group specific data to then take action with that data.

The woo is strong in your database. When we understand the connectedness present in our system, we are better prepared to harness its magic. So, go forth and prosper my friend.

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