Take snapshots of data

One of the most common requests I hear from my clients is the ability to compare year-over-year statistics on things such as membership counts (e.g., how many associate members did we have last year on January 1, versus this year?).

Year-over-year comparisons can be very useful. But one of the challenges that a dynamic database presents is that it can be tricky if not impossible to query for historical data. Because the database and its data is always in flux, it’s possible that over time, data may change (or be deleted, and these changes can affect historical counts.

As a simple example, suppose you have 500 individual members in your organization on January 1, 2014. During the year, one of those members dies, so they are removed from the database. When you go to query the database on January 1, 2015, the count will be off by one, because the data has changed.

This is where snapshots of data are very useful. Snapshots are just what they sound like: a picture of the data at a given point in time. The most common snapshots I see among my clients is snapshots of membership counts and event registration. But others might be useful, too, like donor information, sponsor information, exhibitors, and so on.

So if you’re interested in doing year-over-year comparisons on key data points in your database, a snapshot of that data might be the smartest way to go.

About Wes Trochlil

For a quarter century, Wes has worked in and with dozens of associations and membership organizations throughout the US, ranging in size from zero staff (all-volunteer) to over 700. In that time Wes has provided a range of consulting services, from general consulting on data management issues to full-scale, association-wide selection and implementation of association management systems.

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