Wish List #5: Documenting your Decisions

When I first began writing blog entries, I promised to work through a list of the top ten things I wished I would have known when I was working as a development officer and using fundraising software. So far I’ve covered four of them:

  • Take advantage of the built-in reports
  • Understand the importance of a backup strategy and how to use it
  • Utilize the calendar as a contact planning and organizing tool
  • Use contact records to keep track of every touch point I have with each donor

So today it’s time for realization number five, and here it is:  I wish I would have recognized the value of documenting all the decisions I made about the information stored in my database. In short, I wish I would have had the wisdom to create a procedures manual.

I can’t really imagine how long my successor must have struggled to try and figure out how to pick up where I left off. Then again, perhaps he didn’t. Maybe he just started down his own path, entering in new data in whatever way made the most sense for him. If that’s the case, then I really feel sorry for his successor, who would have inherited a database in pretty messy shape.

We unfortunately get a significant number of calls on the support line about customers in very similar situations so unfortunately my experience is not unique. It’s a common enough scenario that we published a whitepaper on the topic several years ago. If you haven’t yet seen it, or need a refresher on the subject, you can access it by clicking here.  We’ve also made available a template which may help you get started on the creation of your own policies and procedures document. You’ll find that document here.

If you’ve never done anything like this, I suggest you start small. Begin with the process to enter a new constituent into your database and document all the steps. For ResultsPlus, you might borrow step-through instructions from the ‘Getting Started’ Guide, pull information from the related topics on the How To tab, and use screenshots of the various forms you complete when adding a new constituent. Once the steps are documented, then detail the ‘rules’ your organization has for how and why data is formatted or entered into each critical field.

In the end, you’ll have an important tool which will acknowledge your decisions and protect your database for the future benefit of your organization. After all, it’s not just your database – it’s your donor history, and it’s worth it.

If you’ve been wise enough to create a policies and procedures manual, and you’d be willing to share it as an example, please let us know or ResultsPlus customers post your information on the ResultsPlus Forums.