Fundraising Databases Insights

The Engaging Networks Integration Tool for Charity CRM systems

In the dynamic landscape of charity data management, having tools that streamline operations with precision and compliance is now a necessity. Actually Data are thrilled to introduce our bespoke Engaging Networks Integration tool, designed to revolutionise how your charity integrates with your CRM system with your online engagement tools.

Take your first step towards a more efficient, effective approach to digital advocacy, fundraising and engagement by exploring the key features and benefits that make this tool an indispensable asset for your charity.

Key Features

Bespoke Data Transformation

  • Tailored Functionality: Created exclusively for your charity, the tool seamlessly transforms Engaging Networks data into a CRM-friendly format, tailored for your instance of your charity’s CRM system.
  • One-Click Operation: Simplify data imports with a one-click mechanism, eliminating the need for continuous development or third-party intervention.

Enhanced User Experience

  • User-Friendly Interface: Accurately code Engaging Networks pages for a cohesive data integration experience.
  • Empowering your team: Users retain control over the data transformation processes, easily accommodating changes in internal protocols.

Seamless Integration

  • Streamlined Processes: Leverages your CRM’s inbuilt import tools, ensuring a smooth and seamless data integration process.
  • Flexible Data Management: Enables you to continue to adapt data as internal processes and policies change, without requiring additional development.

Robust Data Handling and GDPR Compliance

  • Data Security: Utilizes Microsoft Excel, empowering you to govern data storage and processing, ensuring stringent adherence to GDPR and data handling protocols.
  • Integrates with your Tech Stack: By working through Microsoft Excel, the tool offers a familiar environment for staff to work in, within a program you likely already work with.

Innovative Reporting and Analytics

  • Insightful Analytics: Complemented by Actually Data Analytics, it provides data-driven reports on supporter engagement, offering insights into the efficacy of your online initiatives.
  • Strategic Adjustments: Helps you identify areas that require change, further optimising your charity’s online engagement strategies.

Customisation and Scalability

  • Customised Solutions: Tailored to meet the unique needs of you charity, offering flexibility as you import and report on your activity.
  • Significant Scalability: With a one million row import limit, the tool can accommodate a substantial number of daily transactions, far exceeding most charity’s requirements.

Responsive Customer Support

  • Personalised Support: Enjoy the peace of mind and consistency of interacting with your own Account Manager, who will also be the person who implemented the system for your charity.
  • Minimal Learning Curve: With an easy-to-use interface and training provided as you implement the tool, users will be able to effortlessly generate files and import Engaging Networks data into your charity CRM system straight away.


1. Time-Saving

Automate the cumbersome task of data transformation and integration, freeing up your team to focus on core charity data activities or larger strategic projects.

2. Cost-Effective

By reducing the need for third-party developments and continuous adaptations, it serves as a cost-effective solution for data management.

3. Enhancing Data Accuracy

The tool ensures precise data coding and integration, enhancing the accuracy and reliability of your CRM database.

4. Strategic Decision Making

With data-driven reports, the tool aid you as you make informed strategic decisions, helping boost your charity’s online engagement and success rate.

5. GDPR Compliant

By offering control over data storage and processing, it assists charities in adhering to GDPR guidelines.

6. User-Friendly

Designed with a user-friendly interface, it facilitates a hassle-free user experience, requiring minimal user training.

Investment and Support

To foster a seamless transition into a more structured and efficient data management regime, the Engaging Networks Integration Tool is priced as a one-off cost. This investment guarantees a system tailored to your charity’s specific needs, with the potential to significantly streamline your operations.

If  your charity requires further developments or changes, we are here to assist at a standard day rate. Our team is committed to supporting you in enhancing the tool’s functionality to meet your evolving needs.

Case Studies

Here’s a link to a case study for Refuge where we talk about integration to Blackbaud’s The Raiser’s Edge

Here’s a presentation that our CEO, Anthony, delivered at the Engaging Networks conference that talks about the integration work in more detail. Making Sense of your data

Get In touch

If you’re ready to start your CRM Integration journey, why not get in touch for a call to discuss your requirements in more detail.


Welcome to ADRFM

I’ve really enjoyed working in the sector over the years; there are great people and causes, but one thing that I’ve always struggled with is a lack of data understanding.

While typing this, I recall a train conversation I had with the head of Individual Giving and another fundraiser early in my role at VSO where I was waxing lyrical about data and its usage and how animated I got and was told to calm down and you’ll go far, but I also remember thinking to myself that I need to bridge the gap between the database and the fundraising team. As Database Manager, I assumed this was my responsibility.

15 years later, I’m still trying to bring fundraisers closer to their data. Over the years, I’ve learned that fundraisers prefer colours to a wall of numbers – I’ve tried both – they prefer simplicity to having to write queries and are mostly comfortable in excel. Some of the new fundraisers, on the other hand, and the ones I believe will excel (see what I did there?) in the coming years, are those who are curious about their supporters and want to get closer to their data.


ADRFM is a report suite that covers the key reports and metrics that fundraisers have requested from me over the years. ADRFM (Actually Data’s Really Fantastic Metrics) was born.

Delivering training sessions is something I’ve always enjoyed. When a user understands what you’re trying to show them, such as queries in Raiser’s Edge. There’s no better feeling than making someone self-sufficient. I’ve worked with organisations that requested reports from CRM systems, as well as organisations that had no reporting in place or had no idea how well they were performing other than what was in the management accounts.

The level of detail in your CRM system should allow you to answer questions like: Who are my best supporters, where do they live, what products do they buy, when do they buy them, and what will they buy next. None of it of these will come from your management accounts.

Working with a number of organisations where monthly reports were required, as well as doing mailing selections for clients. I’ve spent a lot of time considering what these organisations, large and small, have in common. Simple things like RFV (Recency, Frequency, Value) to single givers and multi givers seemed to be at the forefront of a fundraiser’s mind.

Then there were the average gift amounts and the number of communications received by a supporter. We have over 20 metrics that we can calculate on your data that you can use to select supporters or review what they’ve done, some of which may be things you’d like to test in the future in a mailing or supporter journey.

I hope that having a suite of reports that cover all aspects of fundraising and are easy to use and explore your data brings fundraisers closer to their supporters and helps them understand what they do and when they do it. It’s colourful, so it should be more engaging than a crystal report, and it provides a starting point for organisations that haven’t reviewed their reporting requirements. One of the clients used it in this manner; they needed reporting but weren’t sure what they wanted, so they started with ADRFM and discovered that it meets the majority of their needs.

ADRFM is a subscription-based, system-independent product. So it doesn’t matter if you’re using thankQ, Raiser’s Edge, D365, Salesforce, or any of the other CRM systems on the market; our system will work with it. Customers use data from multiple systems together rather than going through a full data warehouse solution.

As with most projects I’ve worked on, I believe that reporting is a journey. If you’re just getting started, we have a reporting suite that will get you and your organisation started. This is ADRFM in a nutshell; it includes reporting and KPIs.

If you are a larger organisation that is already embracing data and looking to take the next step with your reporting, we have the Pro version, which includes reporting, KPI’s, metrics, and our very own segmentation tool. This enables fundraisers (or anyone else?) to create their own segments for analysis.

We’ve also created bespoke reports based on our data model and data from Google Analytics and Email Marketing Platforms like Dot Digital.

So, if you want to learn more about ADRFM or discuss your specific reporting needs and how it might help your organisation, get in touch and we can have a virtual coffee and talk about it in more detail, though you may need to tell me to “calm down” ;). Please Contact Us


Database Person 101

One of the things I do is assist with interviewing database people for roles. It’s usually where I already have a relationship and have worked on a project for a client. I recently hired a database person at a charity where I’d been assisting with Raiser’s Edge database support for the past few years.

The pandemic has made conducting interviews quite different. Zoom or Microsoft Teams interviews can be difficult to conduct, but they can also be beneficial since, in my opinion, interviewees are less anxious when they are not present and are not dealing with the pressures of travel. Some people experience the opposite, where they become more anxious when they cannot meet in person. Keep in mind that the interviewee wants to perform at their best for all parties.

However, I digress. The purpose of this piece is to discuss the onboarding process for new hires, what it’s like to join a team, and what you should try to consider. But before that, I would note that it has been challenging to find candidates during the pandemic. If you’re trying to hire, all I would advise is to persevere because the right person will come along. You should also be realistic about what you can offer, as I believe that remote working is here to stay and that database professionals do need some time away from the office to focus and do some of the “doing.”

Let’s get back to it. Although the individual I hired had experience with databases, they hadn’t worked on the particular database at this nonprofit, so as part of the onboarding process, you need to give them time to get up to speed. Keep in mind that not everyone learns in the same way; some prefer to read, some prefer to watch videos, and some prefer to just dive in. If you’re writing handover notes, consider whether making a video of a brief passage that can be utilised as training material or to explain something a little more technical would be the best course of action. The majority of companies offer current films for system overviews, and if you’re just getting started, YouTube is your buddy.

Training: Even while you want the new employee to become acclimated as quickly as possible, try not to schedule all of your training sessions or orientations during the first few weeks. Joining new organisations can be overwhelming for database professionals because most database professionals are introverts. I don’t mean this in a negative way; I’m just saying that meeting lots of new people can be exhausting and that trying to remember names and roles on top of systems and processes takes time. Create a strategy for the information your database person needs to know and make sure there is room for it.

I chose a half-dozen things for the person to learn each month for the first three months, and then a few of the more important things for the last three months of their probationary period. Which is a good point; I would always estimate that it takes approximately 6 months to onboard and embed a multifaceted database person; obviously, if your database person is only doing imports or selections, it can be much faster, but as a guide, that is what I would suggest. Everything will be fine if they arrive sooner.

When your new hire is no longer new, the honeymoon period is over, and they must work on their own. Hopefully, the following items are in place:

Task Management – They’ve found a way to manage their day-to-day tasks, whether it’s Outlook tasks, a separate calendar, or something completely different like Todoist or Trello.

Documentation – There are notes on what you’ve gone through that are saved in a location where you can refer to them or share them with other team members. This documentation should include process notes, your personal notes, and contact information. Using a programme like OneNote or Evernote, which allows you to save links to websites as well as documents and pictures, can be useful at times. You may also be able to embed videos if you’ve decided to create your own collection of how tos.

Projects List – Before you set out to change the world or annoy colleagues with the “This is how we did it at my previous job…” I’d make a projects list and a tracker for everything that happens on a regular basis, such as imports from JustGiving or Direct Debit Processing, and then look at the bigger projects / clean up type stuff that you might want to tackle when you have the time, such as Contact Types, Communications lists, or teams that aren’t using the CRM as well as you’d like. They are not 5 minute tasks.

Again, you can keep this separate from your regular day-to-day tasks, or you can keep it all in one place. Personally, I keep them separate because I would be overwhelmed by a long task list followed by a long list of projects I need to complete.

Finally, make time for self-learning and keeping up with what’s going on in the industry. Database professionals don’t have many options for getting help, coaching, or mentoring on a daily basis. So start with the Facebook groups; there’s a fundraising database group as well as Raiser’s Edge groups for the UK and overseas. Other CRM systems are available, and there are groups for them. However, I would say that many of these groups are places where people vent about their CRM system, sometimes for good reason, but you’ll need to wade through this or add a picture of your pet to cut through the noise.

You can, of course, look for people on LinkedIn and connect with them; who knows, we might even be able to hold events where we can put like-minded people in a room for a discussion – stranger things have happened!

Finally, this isn’t my typical type of post, so if you’d like to see more of this type of thing, perhaps about specific database challenges, let me know and I’ll keep typing; if this is completely off the mark or if I’ve missed something obvious, let me know and I can amend or leave this type of thing to people much more qualified than myself.

Here are some examples of common job roles on a database team in the UK charity sector:

  1. Database Administrator (DBA): A DBA is in charge of managing and maintaining the organization’s databases, which includes tasks like data modelling, storage, integration, and security.
  2. A data analyst is in charge of analysing data in order to extract insights and inform decision-making. Data cleaning, data visualisation, and statistical analysis are examples of such tasks.
  3. A data engineer is in charge of designing, constructing, and maintaining the infrastructure and systems that support the organization’s data needs. Data pipelines, data lakes, and data warehouses are examples of such tasks.
  4. A data scientist is responsible for analysing data and extracting insights using advanced statistical and machine learning techniques. Predictive modelling, natural language processing, and image recognition are examples of such tasks.
  5. Data Manager: A data manager is in charge of overseeing the overall management and governance of an organization’s data, which includes tasks like data quality, data security, and data privacy.

A database team may include one or more people in each of these roles, depending on the size and complexity of the organisation, or it may have a more specialised structure with additional job roles.


Blackbaud – The Journey

As a consultant, I talk about Journeys a lot! There’s a curve that I describe during a CRM journey that users go through, it’s proper name is an inverse bell curve. Users are really excited once they buy a system, then they have the challenges of talking through their existing data and their enthusiasm drops a bit. They then enter testing and it drops a bit more, but then they see the potential of the new system and begin to get excited again and finally go live day happens and they are nearly as excited to get started as they were when they purchased a system, well at least, that’s how I hope my projects go when I do them.

Now onto the Blackbaud journey, before I go any further, I should state that I have worked with Blackbaud Europe over my time as a consultant and I’ve used Raiser’s Edge since even before I started in the sector in 2005. I am definitely not in the inner circle of what’s happening at Blackbaud so this post is probably not going to tell you anything that you don’t already know if you are on the inside.

Blackbaud have done some things since “The data leak” that I’ve found very disheartening to customers. First there was the charges for using gifts, whilst this was a modest charge, I didn’t understand why if you stored financial information in a system you had to pay extra. Then they announced and will soon remove the Crystal Reports functionality. This is an external tool that Blackbaud provided that allowed you to create your own custom reports and surface that within your Blackbaud product. Finally, there is the removal of the Microsoft Office integration with Raiser’s Edge, I’m not sure if this affects their plethora of other products but this is a massive change for charities. The announcement for this change was just before Christmas, some of the busiest times in the sector across the world not just here in the UK.

Blackbaud are citing a security risk, which again, bearing in mind “The data leak” I can understand that they need to do something, but removing what I think is key functionality of a CRM – normally one of the top 5 requirements of any CRM is being able to write to a supporter, with no replacement other than using microsoft word outside of the system feels short sighted.

Bill Connors, one of the god fathers of Raiser’s Edge, wrote what I thought was a very measured post and more importantly really helpful: about the challenge that this provides to their clients, it’s definitely worth a read if you’re not sure what you need to do and with just a month left, I’d try and start planning and doing now!

As I look to the future, I’m one of those people who is still deeply frustrated with Blackbaud’s Raiser’s Edge product, there’s still key things missing from the web view like Volunteering and Membership, some of the stuff in web view is challenging to add or amend eg: Organisation Type (Org2) and as mentioned there are beginning to be some gaps in what users need or expect from a CRM system so it’s getting harder to promote the virtues of RE.

That said, they do have an API which may help in some of these limitations and their strategic business partnership with Microsoft is not going anywhere soon as far as I can tell. So we invested time looking at the API for creating a suite of reports using Power BI and the RE API.

The other thing that they will allow you to do is download a full SQL backup of your data once a month for free. Again this is useful and we’ve used The full backup for training and a deeper reporting suite

More about the reporting suites that we’ve been building in a future post

So finally, as I move forward with CRM systems, all I can suggest is like, Bill Connors has said, don’t throw the baby out with the bath water, the Microsoft thing might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, It was definitely something that I was annoyed by for a while! Take a strategic long term view of what’s best for your organisation and more importantly what’s best for your supporters.

A new CRM system is not a cheap process to go through and not just in terms of costs. If you do decide that now is the right time, there are other posts on this blog that I’ve written that may help you along your journey.

Fundraising Databases

An Excel spreadsheet is not a database

For some time, I’ve been giving Charities guidance on procuring new CRM database systems, mainly in the fundraising area. I’m sure if you’re reading this, you have an idea of what a database is but just to be clear. Databases are a central repository for structured data. Normally they would have some type of validation (checking) on the data that you put into it. This is one of the main reasons why Excel spreadsheets are not databases! Excel can be used to collect data or maintain lists of data but very rarely do you see Excel spreadsheets that make sure that the right type of data is in the right cell or have special forms that let you enter data in a structured way.

So why do you need a database, you could just use a spreadsheet. For everything that is in this post there are of course exceptions or ways around what I’m suggesting.

Here are my 5 main reasons why I think every charity should have a database:


When I mention collaboration it can scare lots of people about who has access to “their” data. First thing that I suggest is that the data is the asset of the organisation, not your personal data, that’s something completely different and you having your own set of data means that a supporter is probably not getting the best from your organisation. Always put yourself in the position of the supporter/beneficiary – they have a relationship with the organisation and probably with you as an employee, but you should only ever use one voice when you speak to them. This is only possible when all data is in one place. The organisation has one version of the truth, this can never be a bad thing. Yes there will be some data that the supporter may not want you to share across the organisation, but sharing is caring. A database lets multiple users access it at once, something that is much harder in Excel and almost impossible beyond 2 users. 


From a legislative process, having your data in one centralised accessible place is a good thing. First of all if your supporters are multi-faceted, you’ll know. Otherwise you’ll have to look through paper files / Excel spreadsheets or other places that you have data as both paper and electronic data are governed by the Data Protection Act. The other thing to think about here is that legislation is not just about the Data Protection Act, there’s also your requirements around PCI-DSS Compliancy, Gift Aid and privacy and electronic communications (PECR).

3. Consistency

Now here’s some stuff that you can do in an Excel spreadsheet but can be easier when you’re using a database. Think of things like titles in an Excel spreadsheet. Some people would put Mr or Mr. or leave it blank or put something else. Database consistency should help with things like drop down lists and options. Like I said this can be done with data validation in Excel but this won’t do formatting validation as easily. Some examples:

  • what do postcodes look like?
  • historically Towns were required to be in Uppercase by Royal Mail (now it isn’t required to be upper case)
  • Telephone numbers, if you’re using a system that recognises telephone numbers does it needs to have its international dialling codes how does it cope with spaces.

These things are things that should be picked up by a decent CRM system. In a perfect world there would be an internal description field set up for things like drop down lists so you know what type of data values you’re expecting in here for example Marathon Runners and their estimated completion times what would this look like in your database 3h 45, 03:45 hours, 225minutes

Obviously thought needs to go into how to structure your profiles/attributes when you set up your CRM system.

4. Efficiency

Why do users like Excel spreadsheets – because they are easy, we’re all comfortable with them. Most people can copy and paste from or to them. We know how to find and filter the data and get what we want from it. An Excel spreadsheet works with Microsoft Word so sending letters or printing labels is easy.

All of this ease has to migrate to CRM systems. Data collection shouldn’t be tedious, forms should be simple and easily understood, ideally self-populating where possible e.g. My gender is most likely male as my title is completed as Mr, this doesn’t mean it can’t be changed but it should be capable of working out the default which could be overwritten if needed. The same when processing income, I know that the last thing that you received was this appeal therefore when I process income, I should be able to guess that you’re responding to this. I shouldn’t have to retype all of the information again if it’s already in the system.

The one thing that is my biggest bug bear is users who are re-keying electronic data because import processes are too laborious or complicated. Importing data of any kind shouldn’t be difficult it should be as simple as a copy and paste into a template that does all the heavy lifting for you.

5. Measurement

Finally, there’s no point capturing data if you can’t report on it and count your successes. Yes of course you can do reporting in Excel but you’d have to create your own reports. Most of the CRM systems come with a number of reports as standard like income reports, new donors’ reports. Some of the new CRM systems are doing more intelligent reporting with things like letting you know that you’ve not been in touch with key supporters, reminders around when to get in touch with a supporter for their birthday, the anniversary of their gift, their potential change in taxpayer status. All of which help you craft your message at the right time to the right people.

So these are my 5 top reasons about why choose a database over a spreadsheet. What are your reasons for using a database?

Lastly, please don’t think that a database is out of your reach, there are solutions to fit all budgets, teams, processes. The key with all of it is keep it simple to get started and build on that once you’re up and running.

Actually Data can help you with embarking on a project like this, if you’d like to talk through how we can help, let’s grab a coffee.