I was meeting with a group of association CFOs recently, discussing how they use their association databases. During the course of the discussion, one of the  executives said “We call our database the coffin.” When I asked him why, he smiled and said “Because in our organization, that’s where data goes to die.”

He explained that although their database was very good at collecting data, it was exceedingly difficult for staff to actually extract the data. Thus, data goes in, but it never comes out.

This is one of the most common complaints I hear from my clients and other association executives. There was a time, of course, when ONLY IT could extract data from the database. And although it’s gotten better over time, querying and reporting in most databases is still very difficult for many staff users.

So if you’re still struggling with this issues, work with your vendor to get the training needed to be able to query for data in your database. If you’ve got a custom system, seek out an expert who knows your platform (e.g., Access, SQL, etc.) and work with him or her to develop a usable querying tool.

Don’t let your database become a data coffin!