By Christine N. Kuriah, My Philanthropy Team

Every fundraising professional knows what it’s like to have a love/hate relationship with a database. With these ten simple steps maybe you, too, can find happily ever after.

  1. Security: make sure that you have checks and balances to help users from straying into areas where they may not belong or accidently making changes that impact coding or other sensitive areas of the database. The greatest factor in compromising the integrity of generating complicated mailings, accurate reports, lists and exports is poor and inconsistent data entry and coding. Too many cooks spoil the broth!
  2. Database Administrator aka “database boss”: your organization should only have one database administrator. This should not be a shared position. Several users can use the database and work independently but only one person in the entire organization should have final authority and responsibility for the fundraising database! The second most common cause of malfunctioning databases is the lack of someone in this role. This person has technical oversight, user oversight and data oversight. When unavailable, a backup database administrator with their own user login and password should be assigned with supervisor level permissions.
  3. User rights: set up the rights of all users properly based on their job positions and database abilities. Proper set up of passwords is paramount.
  4. Training: all current and new development staff must be properly trained. Before any user is allowed to access the database, each staff member should go through comprehensive training. Ongoing training for existing users and training when software updates occur is a must!
  5. Documentation: creating Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) specific to your organization’s database is important. The kind of documentation that is needed is that which explains exactly how and why your organization’s specific database is set up and used as it is. Your SOPs should be written by and for the database administrator and power users to consult during their time with your organization and leave to their successors. Documentation should be organized based on the business needs and processes your organization uses to make fundraising happen. There should be as much emphasis on “why” as there is on “how.”
  6. Database maintenance: keep your database on the latest version, make sure technical maintenance tasks are monitored and ensure backups are being done daily and correctly.
  7. Utilize the full capacity of your database: examine inbuilt reports and dashboards before customizing these functions.
  8. Use online support forums when dealing with trouble shooting problems instead of coming up with “round-the-way” solutions for tackling a database problem.
  9. Your database system should stay in pace with your current fundraising activities: make sure your database is at par with the growth of fundraising activities and reporting. What used to work may no longer work now.
  10. Keep it simple! Do not complicate your coding system. The simpler it is, the more accurate your reports and data will be.

Christine N. Kuriah is a Senior Philanthropy Specialist with My Philanthropy Team. Her “super power” is running smooth and powerful direct response fundraising programs and “back of house” operations. Christine holds a Master of Public Administration degree from California State University, East Bay (summa cum laude), specializing in Public Management and Health Care Administration and a B.Sc. degree in Psychology from Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada. To learn more about Christine and how My Philanthropy Team can help you meet your fundraising goals, visit

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