General Training

Database Team Structures

I’ve been involved in analysing database team arrangements across organisations as a follow-up to my article on database personnel. When building fundraising teams, one element that is frequently overlooked is the infrastructure required to support the expansion. So I decided to discuss how I attempt to determine what is necessary.

Understanding the team’s requirements, both present and future, should be your first priority. Hopefully, your company has a list of routine duties, such as: Weekly or monthly events could include processing Direct Debits or importing JustGiving data. This is what I would refer to as “business as usual” (BAU) material. Once you get the list, you must indicate how long each task takes so that you can determine how much time is spent on BAU work each month. As part of this, I would also include monthly team meetings, mailing choices (if they are regular, like once a month’s worth of Enews), training sessions, and support.

Then there is project work, whether it be an analysis, a new product, an innovation, or a study of your CRM system that requires improvements. Once more, you should keep a track of how much time the team spends on this kind of work. This is what I would consider project work, and I would also include scheduled yet sporadic mailings, such as if you send out appeal mailings on a quarterly or biennial basis. Additionally, I would advise you to regularly check in with system users to make sure everything is still going well. I advise creating a super user group that can discuss how their respective teams use the database. and anything that irritates them or prevents them from doing their job.

You now have a rough idea of how long projects that you are aware of are taking.

Last but not least, there is Emergency Response work. Either something has gone wrong and needs to be fixed, or Blackbaud is withdrawing the office integration, in which case a patch needs to be found. The organisation won’t be aware of this kind of situation, but there is no way around the need to have a response. You’ll need to be aware of how much time you spend on this kind of work, just like you would with the other kinds.

In an ideal world, it should look something like this:

BAU – 50-60%

Project work – 25-30%

Emergencies -5-10%

The amount of real days that people can work must then be taken into consideration, along with any holidays. I assume there are 200 working days in a year because I am a consultant.

With these estimates, you ought to now have a better idea of what the team’s requirements are.

Most organisations with fundraising revenues exceeding £5 million should require more than one individual to work on their database team, in my opinion (So long as the database team is just responsible for the database and not the whole IT infrastructure stuff) Just to be clear, I’ve worked with several organisations that rely on one or two superusers to fill the role of database management because they don’t have one. With the information above, hopefully it was clear why having a database person was necessary.

So, let’s go back to business. You’ll have a better idea of the activities that are necessary and, consequently, what you’ll need in a team, based on the time split required between BAU and projects. I’m assuming you’ll need someone to handle imports, mailing selections, insight and report production, as well as project-related deliverables. Now, just as you don’t want knowledge silos in your database, you also don’t want them in your teams, as this can cause issues with things like succession planning.According to the size of your organisation, you may need project managers who collaborate with the database team or business analysts who can translate user needs into briefs for the database team to implement change. In an ideal world, all database teams would have at least two members so there is coverage for things like holidays and illness.

Digital strategy is one of the topics I’m hearing about increasingly frequently. I understand that many organisations are still embracing digital technology, and I believe that the impact of digital strategy on database teams appears to be broad. A new strategy of any kind should involve your database team early on so that the database can be set up in a way that allows you to report on the success of your programmes. It also appears to have different success metrics than what the majority of people are used to. Every strategy should include a list of specific success metrics. As always, start small. Consider the top 3 factors that contribute to success and grow from there.

And now that I’m just looking ahead, I would love to see more heads of data sitting on leadership teams. Although the database team’s primary responsibility is to serve its users, having a voice at the table at the beginning of strategic discussions and being aware of how data is affected by process, governance, or insight means that we are on board for the journey and have a clearer understanding of the WHY behind what we are doing.

Instead than just being a place to store things or a liability, organisations need to view their data as an asset. If you’re interested in learning more, I recently read a book called Leverage that goes into this topic in further detail.

I therefore expect that this will be helpful to individuals who are having trouble figuring out new team structures, and I anticipate seeing more database professionals on leadership teams in the industry. Reach out to other database managers in the industry as much as possible. Our industry is great at sharing information; long may it continue.

There are a variety of different types of structures that database teams in the UK charity sector may use. Some common structures include:

  1. Centralised database team: In this structure, all of the organization’s databases are managed by a single database team. This group may be in charge of data modelling, analysis, integration, and storage.
  2. Decentralized database teams: In this organisational structure, there are various database teams, each of which is in charge of managing a particular collection of databases. These teams may be set up according to location or function (such as financing, programme delivery, or fundraising).
  3. Hybrid structure: In this structure, centralised and decentralised database teams are combined; some databases are managed by a central database team, while others are managed by decentralised teams.
  4. Database team is provided by an external vendor or service provider rather than being handled internally in this arrangement.

The appropriate structure for a database team in the UK charity sector will be determined by the organization’s size and complexity, as well as its specific needs and goals. Depending on their changing needs and priorities, organisations may choose to adopt different structures at different times.

Fundraising Databases Training

The art of CRM project management

Project management is one of those terms that is banded around the sector as just part of everyone’s role. Whether you’re an events fundraiser, a major donor fundraiser or a database manager and its true there is project management that helps all of the people in those roles succeed, but most times its silo’d. There’s no cross team working unless its writing a piece for comms or digital to help promote the cause or event.

I find a lot of charities think that the project management of a new CRM system is something that can be “tacked on” to someone’s day job not realising the amount of effort required and communication skills needed at all levels within the organisation as well as talking to vendors and potentially other contractors to do the things that you need.

I do a lot of project management as part of my implementation roles and always find it interesting the perception of what “good” looks like. I always say when starting projects that you will start off liking me, you’ll get to UAT and be a little bit overwhelmed and then once you see how a  will change your work be on the happy curve again.

But essentially, CRM project management is about a journey. Most people who are implementing a new CRM system are either doing it and not wanting to change or excited about the change and the new possibilities. Wrapped up into this is the change management piece and collaborative working across all teams who will use the new system. In my view this should be everyone who is a touch point with a supporter, from CEO to the receptionist as its really important. All good organisations charity or not base their work/products/service on data as well as other things but data is at the heart or should be.

So back to the difference between day to day project management and CRM implementation project management, a CRM implementation has a lot of moving parts and should have lots of collaboration within the organisation as you define best practice and a common understanding. There’s a lot of potential data sets that will be unearthed that should be in the CRM but never made it for whatever reason and then there’s the cultural change for the organisation.

Like I’ve said previously, the best CRM system in the world is only as good as the people who use it and the data that they put into it. But now more than ever it’s important to ensure that your organisation has one version of the truth.

So with these three things the key is to:

  • Know what go live looks like (I personally recommend going live in phases so if you need web/events/volunteering/ as part of go live, when is that going to happen, you probably want to try and stagger how people need to take on that knowledge of the new product
  • Understand that people have day jobs, if a project can be delivered in 4 months that’s great but real life will I guarantee get in the way, most of my projects at best go live after 6 months but more realistically end up somewhere closer to 9 months – again the key here is making sure you know what number 1 looks like.
  • Communication and collaboration – put time in people’s diaries for show and tell or key business changes, its key in getting buy in and making sure that your users (or even better super users) are on board with how it will work
  • Book out time for familiarisation sessions let people play with the product and give them the support that they need. A good project manager is 70% counsellor and 30% doing or managing the doing
  • As project manager you don’t have to know how to do everyone’s job, make sure you have key people (Super users / Champions / Heroes / Knowledge Managers / Wizards) whatever you want to call them, they are the people who know their job
  • Make sure you share the knowledge, its key in keeping everyone on track, a folder on a server, a group in outlook, a simple project management tool, make sure it forms part of your meetings. It’s key to share this knowledge with the leadership team as well as your Super users and champions

It’s a journey, in my view it’s a fun journey as you come out as a better organisation after you’ve done it, but it is hard work and on top of day jobs can be very frustrating.

I hope that this has helped and if it is a bit overwhelming for you or your team drop us a note and we’ll talk it through with you.

General Training

Brush up your Excel Skills – Wednesday, 21 September

We know the summer holidays have only just started but it isn’t too early to start planning for getting “back to school” in September with some skills refresher training.


Anthony is running a half day training course in London in conjunction with the lovely people at Fundraising UK Ltd to help you polish up your existing skills and give you lots of hints and tips to make your workbooks and spreadsheets more efficient.

Microsoft Excel is a very useful tool for analysing your campaign data, results and key performance indicators. And there are some very useful hints and tips and easy formulas that could make your job a lot easier and give greater insight into your data.

If you feel like your Excel skills aren’t up to date or would welcome some refresher training to get you back up to speed this is the course for you.

This course is aimed at anyone who wants to learn or refresh their skills in Excel – You will not require any prior knowledge of Excel formulas and functions just being able to open Excel would be great.

The course will cover:

  • Walk through of the ribbon – giving you an overview of the most useful items
  • Introduction to useful formula (countif / sumif / if / Vlookup)
  • Basic Data manipulation tools including:
  •   text to columns
  •   remove duplicates
  •   conditional formatting
  • Basic Pivot Reports – an extremely valuable tool to analyse your data

By the end of the course, you should be able to:

  • Manipulate data ready for your reporting requirements
  • Manipulate data for importing into your CRM system
  • Create Pivot Reports and Charts to display data to your peers or Line managers

The half-day training  is on Wednesday, 21 September 2016 at 10.15am and costs just £100+VAT for charity participants.

Visit Eventbrite for more information and to book.

Fundraising Databases Training

Why CRM systems fail!!

Following on from my previous post about how to healthcheck a CRM system, I wanted to share with you why I think people either love or hate their CRM systems. In most cases its not because one system is better than the other, though there are some systems that don’t fit the not for profit market, it is because users have either bought into the system and can see the benefits or they can’t.

I tell this story a lot but it is one of my most vivid memories of when I started working in the sector. I remember a member of staff, who in the run up to the London Marathon was struggling under the burden of paper that was printed out and then manually entered into the CRM system. It was taking about 3 out of the 5 days in the week to process this data. Now, this wasn’t because the CRM system was rubbish or even that the person didn’t know better, but more because the person who was spending their day wrapped up in paper wasn’t aware of the different things that their CRM system could do.

It was a lack of training.

Fundraising Databases Training

Free Salesforce Training | Third Sector IT

I think that Salesforce is going to be a big player in 2012 in terms of fundraising databases. We’ve already seen Blackbaud and Convio get together and the rise of Supporter360 from Appichar. So if you’re interested here’s a link to some training materials for Salesforce.

One of the best ways to get the most out of Salesforce is to take advantage of the incredible wealth of videos on the internet. It’s also a good way to learn if Salesforce is the right tool for you.

Salesforce has free training videos on Salesforce Navigation, Intro to Sales, Intro to Reports and Dashboards, and for those who need to configure Salesforce, Administration Basics.

Similar to that is the Salesforce Learning Center, which has a few dozen videos in the 2-10 minute range, and a number of 2 page ‘cheat sheets’, a decent place if you are looking for a certain skill.

via Free Salesforce Training | Third Sector IT.