The holy grail of database management is to minimise data entry - it saves time, resources and energy, and cuts down on errors when typing in from handwritten or copied data. Over the past few years this has become easier. Many of the fundraising, events and membership databases now have web forms and data-capture systems.
When considering a new database, it is essential to consider the medium- to long-term requirements of data-capture via the website - it is undoubtedly the future as we communicate more and more with supporters via electronic media. So here are some questions you should be asking.
How do the database and website talk to each other? Do you post forms onto the website and transfer the data to the database, or does the database produce the forms and the data get written straight back?
What are the IT and security implications of passing the data from web to database? If the database sits on your internal server, what does that mean for firewalls in terms of accepting the data from the website?
What can you put on your website? Many fundraising databases allow donation capture online, but what about questionnaires, job applications or event bookings?
What control do you have over the look and feel of the forms?
Web integration may not be the main reason for buying a new database, but it should be one of the deciding factors in terms of which one you choose. Ultimately, you need to be able to post all your data-capture forms on your website, and if you can do it through one system you will improve the user experience and save yourself a lot of time and effort.
And if the organisation needs more than a fundraising database to fulfil its needs, consider using one of the new breed of web-based systems.
- Sue Fidler is an independent charity ICT and internet consultant.