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You Have To Do Some of the Work! – A True Story
31 October 2011, by , in Data Management, 4 comments

I once met with an association executive director to discuss the challenges she and her association were having with their data management systems. As we discussed what was possible with newer technology, she was especially excited to hear how a new AMS would allow her to capture interactions between her and her members. This is how the conversation went:

Her: One of the biggest challenges we face is keeping track of conversations that we’ve had with our members. For example, I’ll meet with one of my members and we’ll agree to do something together, or they’ll give me a really good idea for a new product or service. I want to capture these ideas and conversations. I can’t do that in my current system.

Me: Well the good news is, some of these systems will allow you to capture exactly those types of conversations.

Her: Really? Tell me more.

Me: For example, you would be able to pull up the record of the individual you were meeting with. You could capture the time and date of the meeting, the specifics you discussed, and even categorize the topics covered, for easier querying later. The individual records are associated with their organization records, so you could even see how many times you’ve had conversations with multiple people at a given organization.

Her: That sounds really exciting! How does the information get into the record?

Me: You mean, how does the data get entered into the database?

Her: Yes.

Me: Well, you would have to enter it. Or you could communicate the gist of the conversations to your assistant, and she could enter it.

Her: Well I’m not going to do that. And my assistant doesn’t have time.

Me: But you said capturing these conversations would be important. That the information could provide you and your board with great guidance for future programs.

Her: Yes. But I’m not going to enter that data. And no one else here is, either.

Me: Well, when I find a program that can read your mind and enter the data for you, I’ll let you know.

Computers are great things. And technology can do a LOT for us. But sometimes we just have to admit that we will have to make some kind of effort to make things work. Being successful requires discipline. And part of that discipline is knowing what we have to do to be successful.

About author:
  • HIlarious. Non-database people usually fall into to camps: those who say, “You mean the database can do that?!?” and those who say, “You mean the database cannot do that?!?” Wes, your last paragraph is spot on.

    • Daniel, I run into a lot of “You mean the database can do that?” in my work. It’s certainly a better response than the latter, isn’t it?

  • Keith Williams

    Similarly, I had someone ask if I could pull all those people in our database that did X. Unfortunately – X was a piece of information the organization had never collected and didn’t have in our database. It took her a while to understand that we needed to ask for and enter that piece of information before we could pull records based on it.

    • Wes Trochlil

      Keith, that’s a good one. I often have to ask that question when discussing reports and queries with clients. “I know what you want from the report. My question: does that data exist in the database now?”

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“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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