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A database administrator can be a valuable member of your development team, but only if the role is set up for success. To learn how an organization can best utilize a database administrator, I spoke with Judith Youngblood, a member of LGL’s Consultant Network.
A database administrator is typically charged with data maintenance, as well as gift entry, sending acknowledgments, reporting, and developing standard operating procedures. They likely won’t be the only person at your organization who uses the database, but they are your resident expert.
It’s crucial that a database administrator be viewed as an integral part of the fundraising team. They may not be a frontline fundraiser, but their work supports fundraising efforts. Their knowledge of data informs the rest of your team’s decisions and work. The database administrator can’t work in isolation. They need to be involved in planning the fundraising calendar. That’s important because then they know what’s coming up for their own workload and because they can offer valuable insights for planning purposes. A database administrator can tell you whether it’s possible to create an invitation list for everyone within 25 miles of your organization, for example. They’ll also have a sense of how long it will take to prepare the solicitation list for your year-end appeal.
Judith acknowledges that a database administrator doesn’t have to have fundraising skills at the outset, but “it sure does help.” They do need to be interested in and willing to learn fundraising on the job in order to be able to manage data most effectively. What skills are essential? A database mindset, the ability to make connections, and attention to detail. In Judith’s experience, the most adept database administrators think about the end before starting, and know what questions to ask.
For example, a database administrator needs to know what report the development committee needs each month. Just as important, they need to understand how that report is used. When the database administrator knows how data is used, they can do their job more effectively. It may be that there’s another format that would better serve the committee’s purposes.
In order to succeed, the person in this role needs to be given access to all the tools they need. That means access to a database, of course, as well as ample time for training. It also means access to people—for example, coworkers and board members—in order to ask questions.
Judith cautions that organizations make a mistake when they view this role as IT (Information Technology). If you find it hard not to think of IT in the context of the “database administrator” job title or if you’re having a hard time recognizing that role as part of your fundraising team, consider renaming it. Judith suggests “advancement services” or “philanthropy services.” This team member is serving the advancement of their own organization, and their service is an invaluable one.
Judith finds a key sign is whenever the person “doing the data” at your organization can’t focus on fundraising responsibilities because they’re too in the weeds of data management. The database administrator can take extraneous tasks off the plates of other fundraisers. That way, one person is truly focused on the hygiene of your database, and the others are freed up to focus on donor interactions.
Judith has worked with organizations where the addition of a database administrator directly led to an increase in philanthropy. The database administrator had the data and insight to demonstrate that the organization was leaving money on the table by not communicating with lapsed donors and prospects, or not asking consistent donors to increase their giving. When a database administrator is embraced as a key member of the fundraising team, the organization benefits.
About Judith Youngblood
Judith is a member of LGL’s Consultant Network and the Founder/CEO of WIST Data Solutions, which provides options for integrating data and development for nonprofits.
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