Are you Struggling with a Mining Disaster?

Hanoi

You can’t Mine what you don’t have!

Successful fund raising is based on the relationships you build with your donors.  Some of those relationships may be more distant than others but still effective as you work to reduce the distance and engage long term support.  The use of a database to record gifts and information concerning donors is essential to a formal fund development program. There are no secrets and no short cuts to managing this high value resource which gives financial support to your organization. The donations received and knowledge gained, need to be managed as an entrepreneurial asset that requires well thought out policies supported by procedures and standards.

When you sit down to prepare your fund development plan for the next year and you want to include some projections, your success rate will be directly related to the quality and quantity of the data / information you have to work with.

The misfortune for many organizations is they have not managed their donor information with an eye on the present nor the future.  Spreadsheets used to record events, no profile data on high value donors, information kept in notes are a few examples of information found in a less than useful form.

What makes data mine-able?

Think of a bank. You are creating a bank account of information about how your donors have invested in your charity. Determining first and last gift, as well as accumulated donations, requires accuracy. One of the biggest perils is duplicate donor records where multiple entries for a given donor makes this information unattainable. Imagine contact with the donor only to have them point out inaccuracies. It’s not only a personal embarrassment but it exposes poor methods inherent in how the charity manages its business.

Complete information is essential. Surprising as it may be, poor data management is more prevalent than one would think. A basic tenet of successful fund raising is knowing what and how a donor has interacted with a charity. This only occurs through good recording methods and definitely not through staff memory.

A well run charity wants to know what donations have been gifted; which events donors have attended; if they have volunteered; did they spent money on auction items at an event; whether they donated an auction item; have they been an event sponsor; or a participant in a walk or a run.  The answer to all of these questions should and needs to reside in the donor database making data mine-able.

All members of the fund development team should participate so that transactions are recorded accurately and in a timely manner. Gift information, when well recorded provides further depth about a donor’s interest in a charity. For example, recording a donation as a “designated” gift, does not provide the same impact as using a fund account that establishes a specific interest. Knowing that a donor supports a particular program, service, facility or equipment purchase enables the fund development department to engage the donor with further support or interaction with the charity.  These activities build commitment and commitment is what we are looking for.

The Other Information that makes data mine-able will address donor characteristics. For example, type of business, special interests, family and friend relationships. These are just a few ideas that would benefit the charity. The possibilities are endless but they must be relevant to the charity. How this is collected can be part of an annual review of major donors. We have prepared forms that help to establish the basic information that is required when entering donors. Using a template to help fill in information is helpful.

Something as simple as a correctly formed address, phone number (s) and email give access to donors based on special criteria that a charity has captured. When we discuss capture for essential pieces of information we are not suggesting notes as a primary method. Notes are useful as a secondary resource but they DO NOT provide accurate access. Spelling errors, typing errors, different methods of saying basically the same thing are a real waste of time and make data unsearchable and results unreliable.

A system can be developed that is in the best interest of the charity.  This system supports data capture and management where staff members become accountable for the completeness and quality of what they record.

Staff, who are non-compliant, are a risk to an organization and marginalize one the charity’s most valuable assets.  Training is a further issue. Would you give a multi-million dollar asset to someone who thought they could figure things out or someone completely untrained or would you prefer competence as the preferred option? It’s always interesting to find out that training has been all but eliminated from an annual budget. By guess and by golly, does not make for a successful outcome! Boards and senior management need to support training and skill sharing, if a charity staff are to work effectively.

If you choose to have mine-able data, it will be up to you and your organization. Poor donor data management provides low quality data and yeilds poor or mediocre results. It erodes staff time and diminishes morale as the same problems crop up again and again.  Hands-off managers, procrastinators, and those who are too busy, should never be given the responsibility for managing a charity’s financial future.

If you want mine-able data start by looking at how you are managing what you learn about your donors and how you record their interactions with your charity. It’s the responsibility of the charity and its staff to manage; the database used is just the tool!

If you would like sample profile forms, please email your request to ease@batschgroup.com.

Hosting a Successful Conference: an Exhibitor’s Point of View

NagaWe have been an exhibitor or sponsor/exhibitor at several conferences.  It takes thoughtful planning to hosting a conference successful for everyone involved.  We would like to comment on the role of exhibitors and how you can ensure your conference will be well attended by exhibitors and sponsors alike.

Exhibitors view a conference as a business opportunity.  They balance the cost of attending the conference with the benefit of meeting new clients.   The cost of travel, shipping, time away from the office, staffing, materials and the exhibitor registration needs to be offset by the benefits and opportunities the conference provides. To meet with new or existing clients away from the hectic pace of an office is a benefit to exhibitors.  Delegates on the other hand, also benefit from this time to acquaint themselves with what’s new in the marketplace.

Exhibitors give added value to a conference.  They are a rich source of information and ideas.  They can update delegates on new services and products in an exclusive environment.  Exhibitors bring an important influx of cash to pay conference costs and reduce delegate fees.  They are an integral part of conference activity.

The role of the conference committee is to ensure that everyone benefits.  We begin our comments with location.

Location Location Location! Where a conference is held is an important consideration.  Issues like accessibility, services, space and cost are important factors. From an exhibitor’s perspective, access to the target audience is key. When the location is too far afield, the cost of travel, transporting exhibitor booths and materials, and additional transportation requirements all become a factor in deciding to attend.  The conference committee needs to assess who they want attending; only local exhibitors, only deep pocket exhibitors, or a wider array of potential exhibitors that will be of greater benefit to their delegates.

The position of the exhibitor hall, and the routing of delegates as they move throughout the day to encourage traffic is important to exhibitors. Time for delegates to attend the exhibit hall is often relegated to coffee breaks and lunch.  However, when coffee breaks include a trip to the bathroom and chatting with a new colleague or listening to the lunch speaker before rushing off to the first afternoon session, exhibitors will begin to wonder if their presence is valued or whether they were invited as the proverbial cash cow?

Some conferences offer a social evening in the exhibitor hall.  No one is rushed, everyone has a bit more time and is encouraged to meet and greet.  A social event the day before the conference goes into full swing, usually means that local participants will not attend and those coming from afar will just be checking in.  This is not viewed as a generous offering that benefits exhibitors but rather short shrift to attempt to be doing the right thing.

As an exhibitor, we have a few suggestions.  First, you want your conference to provide such value that exhibitors and sponsors are signing up a year in advance. You can do this very easily if you follow a few steps:

  1. Provide time in the schedule for delegates to visit with exhibitors during the day.  Coffee breaks and lunch hours are of limited value.  Bathroom breaks, chatting with other delegates, listening to a speaker, catching phone messages, grabbing a coffee or eating lunch.  There is no time for exhibitors and to offer this time is chintzy.
  2. Don’t fill the delegate schedule so full that they are ready to drop.  Again, everyone needs a bit of their own time and  many exhibitors are a wealth of knowledge and ideas.
  3. Host a special event with the exhibitors in the exhibitor hall.  The more the merrier is very true.
  4. Add the visit to the exhibitor hall on the conference evaluation form.  It provides delegates with a different perspective and helps them understand that exhibitors are important too. After all, exhibitors want time to introduce their products and services in a professional manner.  Keep in mind, your delegates most likely are selling something to their potential client base as well!
  5. Ensure that there is proximity to where delegates spend their day and where exhibits are housed.
  6. If you have promised a delegate list, make it a full list and make sure it is correct. A pleasant invitation can go out to delegates prior to the event from those exhibitors wishing to send one.  Responses like “Take me off your list.” or “How did you get my email address?” show that delegates were not made aware of the importance of exhibitors.
  7. Most exhibitors will stay with their booth over the lunch hour.  Put out some buns and cold cuts.  You would never sit down to eat in your home or office and leave others to stand and watch …would you?  Hospitality to all concerned is beneficial particularly considering the cost and time some exhibitors have contributed.
  8. Take time to thank each exhibitor / sponsor for attending.  A face to face thank you from the committee is a demonstration of professionalism and good manners.

Where did we get all these outrageous ideas?  Well, we have chaired conferences and tradeshow events and we have been exhibitors and sponsors. Our comments are a result of our experiences as a conference participant.

The key to running any event is simple.  If I was in the shoes of the delegate, exhibitor, or sponsor would I feel this was a successful use of my time, my resources and my money?

It’s not just what you get that makes a great event, it’s what you give that makes it exceptional!

Knowledge Management for Better Fund Development Results

Bangkok Flower Market Orchids

Fundraisers OD!

Fundraising is all about money.  It is identifying an opportunity and orchestrating a successful delivery.  If you keep the relationship between opportunity and delivery simple, it is easy to see what is important, if you want your fund development program to be successful.

Opportunities come in many forms. Most are the result of a concerted effort to make things happen.  The reality of the fundraiser is not only investigating potential opportunities but retaining what they have learned.

Inspiration vs. Perspiration … effective fundraising will increase one and decrease the other.  Which one has the greater impact on your fund development program… inspiration or perspiration?

It is said that those who are successful will do the things that those who are not, won’t do  Many of the activities of success are not draped in drama and glamour but rather come down to good practices and hard work.

As a Not for Profit Organization one of your most important tools, if not the most important, will be the data management tool you use to capture and manage your opportunities.  To be effective and have a long lasting impact this tool will be coupled with well-defined processes and procedures to ensure that it is used to its fullest extent.  The search for this tool can be aggravated by an unsupportive board or by the idea that the organization can get along without it … because they aren’t ready yet … or that they will build their own.

Any one of these three attitudes presents an enormous risk to an organization and the information it gathers, as its knowledge base is what it thrives on.  After 16 years of working with charities our advice is to invest in a system at start up; one that is supported by good management and data collection methods … the same methods that a business would use to market and sell a product.

Factors that undermine the work of committed staff are found when opportunities cannot be addressed due to:

  • lack of time
  • lack of staff
  • lack of morale
  • lack of funding for programs, and
  • the inability to meet goals and objectives.

Little or no data management along with poor processes are major contributors to these factors.

Leadership from senior NP management is essential.  Firemen do not fight fires with a shovel and a pail because it is cheap. And you cannot fundraise effectively without a good quality data management tool.

  Opportunities

Fund development is marketing.  It is telling your world who you are, what you do, the benefits you provide and identifying how people can participate.  Some charities are masters at marketing, everyone knows who they are and what they do.  Others assume everyone knows who they are when in fact their exposure is minimal.

Marketing can be done on a one to one basis … or it can be done more effectively by passing your message along to larger groups.  Marketing requires a strategy and examining options that may have been overlooked.

Fund development is engaging the public or specific audiences in the support of your charity.  How you engage these groups is dependent on what you know about them and the potential for a relationship.

So where do opportunities come from?  They come from examining your charity and the impact it has on your community.  They come from knowing what complementary groups have accomplished in other areas.  They come when you apply a creative approach to your target audience and bring forward appealing ideas.

Telling your Story

The ability to tell your story can take a great deal of time … or it can be relatively easy.  The key to better use of your time starts with some documented planning and an investment in setting up the initial building blocks.

Who falls into the story telling category?  Media is an obvious one, but it may extend further than just your current radio and TV stations and key newspapers.  It might include community papers and journals.  Your client base, if you are program driven, is another group that could use a broader perspective of what you do. Let’s look further.

There are people in your community that work as influencers for you.  This might include Members of Parliament and your Legislative Assembly, or the Councilors and Mayors of the various communities you service.  It might also include people who have senior positions in organizations that you need to remain close to … like a health authority.  Then … there are groups like service clubs, associations and unions whose membership could also have an interest.  Corporations and major businesses that benefit from the services you provide could be another target group, particularly when they publish a newsletter and welcome submissions.

Is sourcing these groups going to be easy? … Unfortunately, a good deal will be ‘not interested’ before finding those who are. Nothing worthwhile is ever easy.

The key to taking a proactive approach to telling your story and keeping it in front of your target audience is to have rapid and accurate access to the right groups.

What most organizations do, is skip the use of their data management tool and store this information over several systems, often duplicated, on paper, in word documents, or excel sheets …  lots of places where access to the information awkward and time consuming if it can be found at all … and when found … inaccurate!

 Engaging the Public

You all have donors.  Retaining them and developing the long-term commitment of these donors is very important.  Increasing the size of annual gifts is a goal.

New donors are another challenge.  But what about other opportunities?…  opportunities that have the potential to get others helping you.  There is an old adage that says ‘many hands make work light’.  Service Clubs can be a source of this activity, as can unions, employee associations and small businesses who want to help.  When you are talking to groups, are your recording all the right pieces of information that will open doors for you.  Better yet, are you asking the right questions while you are getting to know them better?

Relationship building takes time and needs to be strategic.  Just as important is your ability to retain what you have learned so that it can be capitalized on at the appropriate time.

Researching Common Interest

Corporations and Foundations often have gifting criteria …adding descriptive keywords to your system allows you to source funding opportunities right from your own initiatives.  The first time an organization is researched it is a investment.  If this information is lost, and the organization needs to be researched a second or third or fourth time … it is a cost in both time and resources and potentially the loss of valuable funding.

Not only are we interested in what they will fund for, but when they accept proposals, who is head of the community investment department, have they provided a proposal format, did we asked them for money in the past successfully or unsuccessfully?  A quick profile on the organization should offer answers to all these questions.

Being late or not submitting proposals could cost an organization thousands of dollars.

Organizational History

Board members, committee members and volunteers; who were these people from the past?  When looking at a profile it would be beneficial to know more about the commitment people have shown.

Staff turnover is a given and frequent for some organizations.  Retaining organizational history and knowledge is an area that needs to be addressed in an electronic format as it again impacts on potential opportunities that are often hidden away in old file boxes or in the memories of past employees.

Leaving your Legacy

Leaving a legacy of well-defined opportunities should be a goal.  Starting over from scratch every time a staff change occurs is neither profitable nor desirable.  Solid expectations and the implementation of policies and procedures regarding information retention need to exist if an organization is to grow.  Ask yourself what  will your legacy will be?

Delivery

The fun side of fundraising is delivery.  A great opportunity has presented itself and now you move into delivery mode.

Delivery should bring about the capture of all elements of the event or activity, and how your audience participated whether it is a direct mail, a third party event or a special event.

Take a special event for example.  It has a series of elements, none of which should end up on a spreadsheet but rather all should appear your fund raising software tool.

  • Sponsors
  • Ticket Sales
  • Auction Item Donations
  • Donations
  • Prizes
  • Revenue Items
  • Silent Auction Sales
  • Live Auction Sales
  • Volunteers

By keeping all transactions together you can easily receipt those who get receipts, thank those who have contributed to your success, build bid sheets for the event, invoice sponsors and for tickets sales, have a list of who donated what for next year’s auction and have a complete invitation list for next years event.

All of the above activities take no more than a few minutes to complete providing the data has been recorded, giving the fundraiser and their staff more time to focus on the event and enjoy the event themselves.

Building a Knowledge-base

Selecting a database should be done based on what it will do for you today and how it will support you in the future.

@EASE has been built and designed to build a Knowledge-base for an organization.  It is our opinion and belief that the days of the donor database are well past.  Our philosophy is to develop a powerful tool that speaks to your strengths and gives you the access you need when you need it.

We have designed @EASE to be easy to use so that all members of your organization can participate and help to build a successful future.

Hands-off management of your most important asset does not, and will not work.  We need senior management that are comfortable enough to be involved in how a knowledge system is used and populated to create and sustain a bright, productive future.

Knowledge-based Fund Development

Opportunity and Delivery … Let’s OD!

Fundraising is all about opportunity.  Whether it is raising more money or promoting a charity, successful fund development involves identifying an opportunity and marrying it with cost effective delivery.

Knowledge-based fund development looks at how to build opportunity and record the findings so you can act when the time is right.  Knowledge-based fund development facilitates delivery, using methods and tools you’ve created to achieve a cost effective result.

We will examine fund development as a knowledge-based activity.   In particular, we will look at how it impacts on populating a fund development database.

Making Things Happen!

Anyone who has worked in sales knows the zing you get when one of those many calls translates into a potential opportunity.  We think fund development is much the same.  There is an old adage that says

“People who are successful will do the things that unsuccessful people won’t do”.

It is not just the zing of finding good potential opportunities, but more importantly, asking the right questions and recording what was collected in an useful form.

Knowledge-based data collection supports organizational continuity.  Too often, we see situations where a development manager starts a new position and wonders what their predecessor did.  Information is scant, or stored in many different tools or not stored at all.  This represents a significant loss of intellectual capital to an organization.  Another way of looking at this … is simply the need to start over.   How many times can an organization afford to start again?

Building a Delivery Structure

Chaos costs time and money.  Intellectual knowledge and intellectual tools are of great value to an organization.  When we go to work, we expect to end our day, confident, that we have not simply engaged in busy work, but have moved our annual fund development plan forward.

An organized work environment offers staff members a place that supports efficiency.  A Knowledge-based environment supports effectiveness and efficiency.  Having a toolkit that everyone can access reduces both costs and protects organizational assets.

Opportunity & Delivery working for You!

Knowledge-based Fund Development looks at your data: foundations, corporations, businesses, private donors, service clubs, associations, prospects, contacts, and your sphere of influence so that you can interact with them successfully.  Knowledge-based Fund Development collects your tools: forms, letters, procedures, and policies so that you can manage from a set of best practices saving time and money.

Knowledge-based Fund Development addresses both sides of the coin … the idea and the implementation!

Data Collection: Dropping the Ball on Future Opportunities

Donor Master Records

The donor data is in good form; it’s clean, standardized and duplicates have been removed.  The next step is to examine what has been collected. This would qualify as relationship building content and management / decision making data.

Without going into unique requirements too deeply, let’s look at some of the basic pieces of information that create value for a fund development department. We all understand contact information. This includes phone numbers, email addresses, a home address for private donors and a company address for businesses.

Full addresses are usually easy to collect, but phone and email can sometimes be elusive. Acquiring this information may be dependent on what is requested when the ‘Ask’ is being made, or when a donor turns up in person. When a donation is from a non-private donor, the opportunity exists to contact the organization for complete information.

An address lets you contact a donor for a donation, invite them to an event, or send a newsletter. With a phone number, we can contact them personally to say thank you, ask for their support, or invite them to participate in a focus group. Email provides the opportunity to send an eNewsletter, inform them about upcoming events and direct them to a website to further build their interest or send a donation.

How often is some of this information incorrect or simply non-existent? Opportunities lost are not the fault of the software, but the lack of a comprehensive plan to capture data necessary to build a fund development program.

Contacts

Every business, association, foundation, church or service club will have contacts that perform certain tasks.  These contacts are people who interact on behalf of their organization, with the charity. One definitive list that identifies why these people are beneficial, needs to be built and used by all department members.

With one list versus multiple lists, contact information can be kept up to date.  Staff members can move to new positions without leaving holes for the organization to attempt to fill. Contact information for organizations needs to identify ‘who and why and how’ a person or a position, is instrumental to the charity. Qualifying contacts makes access fast and accurate.

Information from the software can be exported to keep email tools and address books up-to-date. When you think about the contact information you collect, think about how this impacts on your ability to keep your community informed by ‘telling your story’, advocacy opportunities and donor support.  Communicating with your ‘audience’ is important to keep their interest and maintain their commitment.

 More Information is Required

This discussion represents only a small part of a much bigger picture when it comes to the type of information we need to ‘flesh out’ the database, making it a powerful entrepreneurial resource.  The ability to run comparative reports on giving history based on business or personal demographics, or select groups of individuals or organizations based on areas of interest, all impact on new opportunities and fund raising dollars.

Incomplete data collection is often supplemented by written notes, comments in emails, or saved in the memory of a staff member … all of these are inaccessible and inadequate as a method of retaining valuable organizational memory.  As part of this project we introduced the 15 second rule.  Accessing what you need in 15 seconds can only be done through the software, the use of a system of coding and a strategy to capture need to know information accurately.

Two areas expand knowledge of our donors. First is the use of the Communications tab to record relationship building information.  Photographs, major gift plans, social networking sites, web sites, web downloads, power point presentations and more can be linked directly to a private or corporate master record.

Second is Dickens, the contact manager.  Dickens records important points of contact that need to be shared organization wide without restriction. Think professional when you think of Dickens.  It takes a moment to record a verbal or electronic transaction. The time is hardly an imposition when you consider the alternative … the loss of valuable historical contact data and of course we look at the benefit …a comprehensive picture of contact activity.

This is the path forward thinking charities are taking as they look at their not for profit organizations from a business perspective.  Personally, we applaud the effort and commitment of the management team involved.  It is no easy task to do a self examination and make changes.  The outcome will find more time freed up for fund raising, less stress and more enjoyment in providing the services they offer.

Spring Cleaning: Preparing the Database

 

Goldfish in a Buddhist Lake

To begin any job, you need the right work environment.  For this project, cleansing the address information in the database was a focal point that would set the stage for all future work.

The Task:  There are two levels of cleansing related to donor address records. First, using the @EASE format we removed unwanted punctuation, ensured address data was housed in the proper fields and corrected typing errors. This put the database in a form where it could be sent to an address cleansing business for a postal code and change of address check up. These corrections were returned and imported along with a code for each record describing the results.

Correct address information is essential if a charity wishes to contact their donors. @EASE uses a unique method to handle address data separating fields for all major address components.  The program assembles these components to create a mailing address compliant with Canada Post whenever an export is requested.  This strategy makes addressing easy to manage and it’s quick to find problem areas that need correction.

It’s not commonly known that address features are determined by each municipality. For example, adding the ordinal suffix ‘th’ for 4 Street in Calgary is incorrect while adding ‘th’ to 11th Ave W in Vancouver is correct. Keeping addresses in good form takes time and effort; a job no computer can do as well as the person in charge of data entry.

With address cleansing completed, the next step was to look for duplication.  Duplicates are master records of organizations and individuals which have been entered more than once.  Naming strategies often contribute to this problem.  In some cases duplicates were the result of an improper or non-existent lookup prior to entering a new donor record.

Six main issues arose when identifying duplicate records:

  1.  Establishing a procedure to ensure data entry staff performed an adequate lookup to see if a donor already existed, prior to adding a new record. Using a wild card search particularly for company names, service clubs or church groups. Checking by postal code for names like Smith, Brown
  2. Ensuring that complete names are sourced when a donation is received or a contact entered.  Understanding that a few extra seconds at the point of entry makes a big difference is important to impress upon staff. Knowing your donors and contacts helps to ensure better quality data entry.
  3. Defined naming standards for groups like businesses, banks, service clubs, churches, & unions.
  4. Providing a resource area in the KMS to record web-sites and other resources to lookup complete names for groups like service clubs, and banks.
  5. Employing methods on all input forms whether printed or electronic to get better information including whether a donor has given before or is new, helps with address changes.
  6.  Accurate keying and a quick check before moving on will improve data quality.

The task of clean up was extensive.  Many years of staff turnover created duplicate donors who were in fact the same organization and entered more than once.  Duplicate organizations were provided with a standardized naming convention.

Examples like Telco companies with multiple offices were brought down to one organization by using the Other Address option.  Service clubs like Rotary were updated to use the naming standard shown on their website.

This work continued for several weeks and involved staff and volunteers to clean up as many duplicates as possible.  Was the task complete?  The answer to that was no, but we were in a good position to identify and resolve any areas missed.

Creating standards helps prevent or at least circumvent the problem of entering duplicate donor master records.  A master record identifies a unique donor and is linked to their gifts.  When more than one master record exists finding information like total donations for a given donor, becomes impossible.

Developing a standard for entering organization names helps to address what type of information is required.  A donation allocated to a group simply called Knights of Columbus begs us to ask … which K of C group is being credited.

Rules of entry become rules of “what to ask” or “when to source more complete information” when an organization interacts with a charity and where an accurate identity is inconclusive.

Service clubs, churches and church groups come immediately to mind when you think of naming convention issues. Less obvious are the names of businesses where the addition of the word “The” to the name of a business or not, can create duplicate entries.

Suggestions that we offered used the web as a resource.

Here are a few examples.

Most service clubs have a branch number associated with their name.  In most cases service clubs have standardized their naming strategy.  Here’s an example of how Rotary International identified correct names for groups in Edmonton Alberta Canada .  The club name showed as Rotary Club of Edmonton followed by the group’s name, not the name of the group followed by Rotary Club.

Royal Canadian Legions have a unique number for each group; the Ladies Auxiliary shares the same number.  When receiving a donation from either group, the number should be included as part of the name to prevent confusion or the inability to credit the donation correctly.

Churches can be difficult when dealing with multiple communities as church names could be identical.  The use of Parish is another area to be explored.  Is the parish the same as the Church?  Decisions need to be made and documented.
We have recommended the use of the EaseKMS to record decisions that affect data integrity like naming strategies. Whatever the decision is, it needs to be part of the basic training for existing and new staff members.

The use of a Resources folder that contains listings of group websites is beneficial when more information is required.
Addressing for all service clubs and church groups can be a further area of discussion.  How often is the current address that of the current president.  We recommend that all service clubs have a Board Change quality so that new information can be updated on an annual basis.  Where possible, the groups PO Box or main church address should be used rather than personal information.  Phone and email become valuable when contacting individuals and a conscious effort to collect this information needs to be included as a policy and procedure.

@EASE provides the use of Other Addresses for all corporate master records. An ‘Other Address’ could be a branch office or simply a different building housing staff in the same city.  The ability to group a company and its participation with a charity around one master record rather than multiple records enables staff to keep information current, up to date and accurate.

There are some instances, where grouping a series of branches under one corporate master record would not suffice.  In the case of bank branches, we recommend that each branch be handled as a unique corporate record, linked by an @EASE membership to show the bank’s full participation.

Managing data of any kind is not easy. When dealing with people and companies, information requires thought and standards to ensure the charity has the best information possible.  Periodic monitoring is advantageous to ensure standards are being adhered to.

Order: How to Save your Sanity in a Fund Development Department

 Order is valued in a working environment. It empowers those who work in it. Lack of order creates chaos and wastes resources. The resources we speak of are human, financial and time.

There is a cost to the lack of order.  Things which are difficult to find, jobs that should be easy but take vast amounts of time erode morale and add a financial burden.   Order and business rules go a long way to making a working environment efficient and staff time effective.  It is just the beginning as other requirements will turn up later in the project.

The KMS will be the repository for many things the charity will want to retain.  Evaluating the use of the KMS and its content will be a job that is performed periodically by management and staff.

The project’s goal was to eliminate time wasters and let the client find what they need, when they need it by implementing a system that supports order.

Re-organizing how information is stored on the client’s network is step one. The 15 second rule is something we have introduced.  If you can’t find what you are looking for in 15 seconds, someone didn’t take the time to save it properly. This mindset enables staff members to make adjustments to improve a situation. Aha! Continuous improvement, a concept that has lost favour amongst all the new management theories, has raised its head.

One of the key methods to establishing order is creating a set of common folders on the client’s computer network, The main folder is referred to as the KMS with all related folders set up as its subfolders.  KMS stands for Knowledge Management System.

The overall structure is flat with few reasons for creating further sub folders.  There are two main folders that require further subfolders; these include donor communications and grant proposals. For all other areas, we created one level of folders enabling access to all electronic tools used by the charity. The toolset includes merge documents, instruction sets, presentations, sponsorship packages and more.

The benefits of the KMS are many.  KMS use must be mandated from senior management down. Adherence to the principle being this is the one and only source for business building tools is fundamental to maintaining order. No longer will stashes of electronic files be allowed when they should be saved in the KMS.

What are the benefits?  Here are a few:

  1.  Control and Continuity: Processes and tools acceptable to the charity are available to all staff.
  2. Cost: Once created an electronic tool can be reused many times over.  The initial cost of development is spread across the number of times it is used.
  3. Time: If staff can find what they need (the 15 second rule) without an endless search, the cost of staff time in locating what they require is insignificant.  The outcome is more time to do what impacts the bottom-line.
  4.  Morale: There is nothing more demoralizing than working in a disorganized environment.
  5. Capture Knowledge:  Recording how jobs are performed develops best practices. How staff perform jobs or improve them can be recorded for the benefit of all others in the organization.
  6. Shareable: A shareable resource is being built with multiple contributions giving employees credit for the value and often time saving suggestions they make.
  7. Brand or Image:  What goes out for public consumption brands a charity. Communications of all types are a reflection of the organization.  The page formats, fonts and messages need to be managed.  With only one copy of a document available for multiple users, the charity prevents creative outputs by well-meaning staff.
  8. Training: A training environment is created for new staff.  It’s no longer “do the job as you wish”, rather the mantra is “this is how we work at our charity”.  They have all the KMS resources at their fingertips to ensure continuity and consistency.  New staff members are quickly raised to a level of performance valuable to the charity.
  9. Conformance:  New or existing staff can be identified for further training.  If training does not address the problem, other actions can be taken.

The Bottom Line

Order and business rules of engagement go a long way to making a working environment efficient and staff time effective.  This is not the end of what we might need, it establishes a start, as other requirements will turn up later in the project.

The KMS will be the focal point of many things the charity will want to retain.  Evaluating the use of the KMS and its content will be a job that is addressed periodically by management and staff.