So you’ve just finalized plans to convert your donor database to a new platform after days, weeks, or maybe months researching your selection. Congrats!
After signing a contract, there’s often have a period of time before you actually begin the conversion process. This “honeymoon” period is a great time to make sure your organization is ready for the conversion process.
Here are three steps to ensuring a smooth conversion that will set you and your organization up for success with the new database:
1) Start Learning the New Donor Management Software
You don’t have to wait until your data has been converted to start using your new donor database. The more you know about the functionality and structure of the new database, the better you will be at guiding the project to success.
Pre-conversion time represents a perfect opportunity to get your training started. Take advantage of any upcoming webinars or seminars; anyone who will be a part of the process or a part of database management after the conversion should participate.
Start with broader topics and begin working your way in. A new user orientation is a good first step after you’ve signed the conversion paperwork. It will give a high level view of the different database components. After you’ve completed that, look for classes about Constituents (and Constituent entry), Timelines (and Timeline entry), and Reports.
In addition to scheduled webinars and trainings, look for other avenues for learning. Skim your vendor’s knowledgebase of help documents, videos and FAQs for key tasks that you do. For example, if you are responsible for pulling reports, make sure you understand the filter process. Spend time familiarizing yourself with the language of the new database and how that relates to your current database. This will make you more knowledgeable and better prepared for conversion.
2) Start Reviewing Your Data
Conversions often come with hard decisions on what data to keep and what data to discard. But without an understanding of the current state of your data it will be difficult to make those decisions.
Start by looking at all your funds, campaigns, and appeals. How many of each do you have? Are there ones that are old that can be combined? If the answer is “yes” make sure to have that information ready for your conversion project manager.
Next, go to your custom fields. Are you consistently using the fields? Is the data in the fields correct? Is the data as concise as possible? If the answer to any of these is “no,” make notes of that as well. During the conversion there will be opportunity to see those fields combined, cleaned, or left behind.
How many constituents do you have that don’t have contact information? How many haven’t given in the past three years? Why keep these constituents? Now is a good time to start thinking about who to remove from your database to clean it up for the new system. Your conversion project manager can help you fine tune your filter as you remove unneeded data.
3) Create (or update) Your Database Best Practices
After you’ve started getting a feel for the structure and language of your new database and you have an understanding of your existing data, you can start planning what your Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) handbook will look like for the new database. If you don’t currently have one, now is the perfect time to start brainstorming how you’d like the new database SOPs to look. To ensure you achieve success with the new database, you will want a best practices guide ready to go when you go live.
Create guidelines and rules for how names will appear. Here are a few examples of what you will have to decide on:
- Do you want Recognition names to include a middle initial?
- Should Envelope names include titles and suffixes?
- Do you want the address to have Ave. or Avenue?
- Do you want gifts that come in with no assigned fund, campaign, or appeal go to a specific designation?
- How are you going to handle anonymous gifts vs anonymous donors?
- Are there pieces of data you don’t collect now that you want to?
- How should that data be stored in your new database?
By answering these questions, you will have created a foundation for a best practices guide for your new database.
If you start this process prior to the conversion, you can lean on your conversion project manager to guide the conversion to the way you want the database to look and function. They will have seen many databases of similar size and structure to yours, so use their expertise on making your data function optimally in the new system.
If you can start all three of these items prior to your conversion beginning, you will be poised for success. You will have an understanding of where you are coming from (data review) and where you are going (training / database best practices). You will be ready to answer the inevitable questions your conversion project manager has, because you will have spent time thinking about them already.
And you will be ready to go live and be successful in your new donor database!