Inoculations (It's about your data, I promise)

As part of my preparations for a service learning trip to a faraway place, I recently scheduled a trip to the Travel Clinic. There I received vaccinations for a whole host of unpleasant illnesses. While ruminating over the state of my arm and all its new holes, along with the greatly increased number of pills I will be ingesting over the next several weeks, I began thinking of how a little bit of discomfort now will prevent serious discomfort in the future and how this can apply to databases.

Here are a few thoughts on things you can do today to “inoculate” your organization from some of the stress that comes along with managing a fundraising and CRM database.

  • Back up your data! This is one thing that cannot be stressed enough. Back up your data daily and store your backups in a safe location. Keep a week’s worth of backups on hand. Store a copy of your database at least monthly for long term recovery, in case it’s needed. As stable as servers are these days, disk failures do still occur; don’t be a victim of that sort of failure.
  • Set up some of the queries you think you’ll need for year-end reporting and tax season now. Then, they’ll be available when you need them, and you won’t find yourself frantically trying to figure out what you need when you are stressed and under deadline.
  • Do you know what new appeals and campaigns your organization will have next year? Do they require new codes? If so, set those up now and mark them inactive. Then, you can simply activate them when needed. Deactivate old codes. This will prevent people from accidentally selecting a code that is no longer active when entering data.
  • Do you have a problem with missing data? Is it because people may not be entering it? Consider making the field a required field. A few examples of fields that could be required in your database are Status, Source, andCampaignCode.
  • Set up security. Databases are designed to be secured. Use this to enable/disable access to certain areas based on a user’s need for access. Not only does this reduce the likelihood of someone entering data incorrectly based on a lack of understanding, but it can actually make using the system easier for those users. It presents them with an interface that contains only what they need, so they don’t have to try to figure out what applies to them or doesn’t.

Like vaccinations, taking these steps doesn’t mean you will never experience any issues. However, it greatly decreases the likelihood. Are there other things your organization does to ensure you are prepared to mitigate situations you wish would never occur?