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Managing Multiple Systems

On Wednesday of this week I spoke at ASAE's Marketing & Membership Conference. Another sold-out show for the MMC, which has become a premier event for membership and marketing folks.

My presentation, along with Mary Pat Paris of IRP, was on managing the email opt-out process. One of the points that struck me as particularly salient was the struggle associations have with managing multiple data management systems. Every association has (or should have) a primary association management system that at a minimum contains membership contact information. But it is becoming increasingly common for associations to have multiple databases in place to manage different functionality. Examples include external registration systems, PAC management systems, and broadcast email tools.

Whether you have two or two hundred disparate systems, what is most critical is having a process for managing the synchronization of these disparate systems. Ultimately what that requires is three things:

  1. Identifying which data elements should be shared between the systems.
  2. Identifying which direction the data should be shared (one-way or two-way).
  3. Establishing a process for managing the sharing of this data.

My suspicion, based on direct observation as well as discussions at these types of meetings, is that few associations are considering any of these three points when adding new data management systems to the mix. Unfortunately what happens too often is that new systems are added (e.g., outside registration company) without consideration for what or how the data should be shared. It's only after the new system is in place that people start asking "Hey, how do we get that data back into our main system?"

Does your organization have this process under control? If not, start by identifying all the disparate systems you have. Then walk through the three steps above and establish a data-sharing process. You'll be happy you did.

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Testimonials

“Wes was able to come in and offer tangible, relevant advice that made us more productive immediately. I value his understanding of databases but more so, his understanding of how nonprofits work. There was no lost time educating him about how membership organizations are “different.” Wes recommended changes in processes as well as tips and tricks that were easy to implement made an immediate positive impact.”

Mary Pat Paris, Executive Director
International Registration Plan

“We came to Wes because we were very frustrated with our existing AMS and we wanted to improve our capabilities as soon as practicable. Wes very quickly helped us through a process of identifying our needs, identifying potential vendors, and selecting a new system that we’ll be able to move into very quickly. I especially appreciated Wes’s candor about our processes as well as the systems we were looking at. He was a great resource to have in a period of high anxiety for our organization. I would highly recommend Wes for any similar project.”

Jack Chiasson, CMP Executive Director
National Association of Life Brokerage Agencies

“Wes was able to come in and offer tangible, relevant advice that made us more productive immediately. I value his understanding of databases but more so, his understanding of how nonprofits work. There was no lost time educating him about how membership organizations are “different.” Wes recommended changes in processes as well as tips and tricks that were easy to implement made an immediate positive impact.”

Mary Pat Paris, Executive Director
International Registration Plan

Mary Pat Paris
International Registration Plan

“This is the second database implementation we’ve done since I have been at Western Arts Alliance (WAA). The first I did on my own. This time we engaged Wes Trochlil as our database planning consultant. Let me tell you, this process is a whole lot easier having Wes on your team! For a small association like WAA, it’s tempting for board and EDs to question the justification and expense of a database planning consultant. But it’s the small associations that need Effective Database Management the most. Wes strengthened our planning process, clarified our needs requirements, helped us steer around solutions that couldn’t meet our objectives, and saved us money in the long haul.”

Tim Wilson, Executive Director
Western Arts Alliance

Tim Wilson
Western Arts Alliance
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