Welcome to Part Three of our three-part series on preparing for your nonprofit database conversion. In Part One we discuss how to pitch a new CRM to your boss. In Part Two we review important budget considerations.
Here at Wanna Pixel, there is so much that we plan for and do to make sure that any database conversion we undertake with a client is a success. Our purpose in this series is for you to feel more prepared and equipped with the information and questions you’ll need about the process, whether it’s with us or another provider.
Simon Sinek challenges in his TED talk to “imagine a world where we wake up inspired to go to work.” Whether you are naturally a glass half-full or glass half-empty kind of person, the technology you use in a day can either enhance or hinder your ability to fulfill your responsibilities. The better prepared you are to undertake a technology change, the more effectively you will be able to use it as a team to expand your capacity and grow your impact.
If you review and act on the three points below before, during, and after your database conversion, we think you’ll find that you and everyone you work with is just that much more inspired to bring your organization’s vision to life.
One: Organize Your Team
Your team is not just paid staff. Think of all the volunteers, board members, and partners who support you in small to big ways. Each of these team members can have a role in your conversion. Perhaps you are incorporating pieces of your workflow that were previously handled by paper and pen. This may introduce a whole new group of individuals who need system access and training. Use these questions as your guide.
- Do you have distinct teams within your organization who will use the database in different ways? These teams may not fall strictly on department lines. You probably also have individuals who will be part of multiple teams. Identify these teams and who will be part of each. Make sure everyone knows what team(s) they are on and how those teams will work together.
- Who can be a database leader in each team? This may not be the actual department director or team leader. It could be a tech-savvy new member of the team who is excited to learn and patient with sharing what they know. Having designated go-to folks means you’ll be able to have questions like “How do I run that report again?” answered efficiently. It will also show you what training gaps your team has, which as we know from Part Two of this series is an important budget line.
- How can you ensure each team uses the CRM consistently? Differences between your old and new database may mean that some of your internal processes will need to be modified or even thrown out the window. Make sure your teams have developed and documented new processes so everyone is clear on their responsibilities. For example, what is the review and testing process for your mass mailings? And how will your development team consistently record interactions they’ve had with donors?
Two: Organize Your Calendar
As we discussed in Part One we recommend that you schedule your database conversion to take place between major campaigns and internal projects. Don’t add unnecessary stress by implementing a new system at the same time key team members need to be focused 100 percent on other projects.
Communicate closely with your technology partner to make sure you have a clear understanding of each project milestone and your team’s responsibilities. Put these milestones on your calendar so you and other key team members see these dates along with your other internal deadlines.
Once your new database is in place and your team is fully training, be prepared for everyone to start thinking bigger and more creatively about the next thing. Once you get a taste for automation and clear workflows, you won’t want to go back. As your wish list of new features and functionality grows, make sure you have a vetting and scheduling process in place so you know how to communicate to your technology partner and prioritize development. Review these development plans alongside your internal campaigns and project schedules. This can ensure they are rolled out at the optimal time.
Three: Organize Your Data
You may wonder “Why should I add even more to my plate?” But undergoing a database conversion is a great time to also evaluate your data management and storage practices. This will help you do things not because “that’s how we’ve always done it,” but because this way makes the most sense, is secure, and gets you what you need.
Here are a variety of things to consider in data management:
- Contact De-Duplication: It’s likely that you have at least three contact records that each contain partial information about the exact same contact. Your CRM should have automatic de-duplication features as well as tools for you to use. Get to know these features and assign this to your team as a regular task. Just as you clean your office bathroom, clean your data. A clean database is a happy database.
- Record Interactions: Decide internally how you will record your interactions with contacts. In some cases, these interactions may be recorded automatically within your database, such as email conversations. Other times, you will manually record these interactions, such as having coffee with a donor. Decide together what level of detail you will document in the system and in what format. This could include naming and file saving practices.
- Data Transparency: Your new database will most likely include the ability to develop custom fields on your contacts and other entities in the system. An example could be your donors’ interests or how they first got involved in your work. Think carefully about what you want to record about your contacts. As data protection rules evolve, be prepared for individuals to request the sensitive personal data you have on them. In the European Union, for example, the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, will provide people with new rights to access the information companies hold on them. This includes information you record on your interactions with them. If you don’t want people to know you have it, you probably shouldn’t track it.
- Secure Passwords: There are excellent online tools, such as Dashlane, to make sure you never lose a password and they are kept in a secure place (not that worn piece of paper in the second drawer of your desk). This also allows you to share passwords and access with team members without sending this information via email. Honor your contacts by keeping their information secure.
Be Proud of Your Hard Work
Think of your diligent work and leadership during your database conversion as a legacy gift you can give to your organization. A robust CRM is one of the most critical tools a nonprofit has. You are about to begin an exciting journey that, if trekked properly, will provide untold benefits to your organization. If you need help along the way, let us know.