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My second favorite tip…

This is the second in a series of tips from my book, Put Your Data to Work: 52 Tips and Techniques for Effectively Managing Your Database, I’ve been asked by several people which of the tips are my favorites. So this series of blog posts focuses on five of them. Each of these tips is reproduced verbatim from the book.

Tip # 36 -Search names on partial spelling, not complete spelling

For most databases, searching an individual’s name should be a relatively easy thing to do. But most users make the mistake of doing an “exact string” search on a person’s name, rather than doing a partial search. For example, my last name is spelled “Trochlil.” To search for me in most databases, however, only requires that the user type in “troch” and search from there. Even in a very large database, “troch” will only return a small number of records.

If the list is still too big, an additional step would be to enter “w’ in the first name field (since my first name is Wes) and then search. This would limit the results to just those names that have a first name that starts with “w’ and a last name that starts with “troch.’ Teaching your database users this simple trick can greatly minimize the number of duplicate records that are created in the database, as well as improving the speed of customer service.

REAL LIFE LESSON —

The spelling of my last name is relatively unusual. It’s pronounced to rhyme with “vocal’ but it is spelled with an “lil’ at the end (Trochlil). Very frequently, my name is entered into databases with an “ill’ at the end (Trochill). So when I talk to a company that is looking my name up in their database, I’ll typically only spell the first part of my last name, in the vain hope that they’ll do a partial name lookup. I rarely succeed. As often as not, my last name will be misspelled and I will have to spend several minutes arguing with the customer service rep about my last name:

CSR: “I’m sorry sir, your name is not in the database.”

Me: “Try spelling it “trochill.”

CSR: “I thought it was “Trochlil.’

Me: “It is, but someone probably typed it in incorrectly.”

CSR: “Oh. Here it is. Yep, it was misspelled.”

And on it goes…

You can buy the book here (or here if you’re an ASAE member) in e-book or printed version.

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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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