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You live or die by your database

Your groups most important resource is the people involved in it. Your database is how you connect with them. Keep you database healthy to keep your organizaiton healthy.
Your group’s most important resource is the people involved in it. Your database is how you connect with them. Keep you database healthy to keep your organizaiton healthy.

Trust Agents by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith tells you “you live or die by your database.”

Their point is to be personally effective, you need to have a way to track your personal contacts and keep in touch with them.

The same is true for a nonprofit. I often say at ICPJ, “Our most important resource is our people: our volunteers and donors. Our database is how we keep track of this most important resource.”

Since you live or die by your database, you need to:

  • Make sure your database has accurate contact information;
  • Make sure that when you send something out it gets to it’s destination (not caught in a spam filter or lost because of a bad postal address); and
  • Use that database to keep in touch with your contacts.

Chris and Julien aren’t exaggerating, I’ve seen nonprofits live and die by their databases.

The first nonprofit job I had was with the Nicaragua Network, a small group that has stayed active even as U.S. policy toward Nicaragua has become less of a concern in the media because their co-director, Chuck Kaufman, does an excellent job of  working with the NicaNet donor database.

Think of your contact list like a muscle, you need to use it to keep it strong. Chuck Kaufman is a master of using his NicaNet list and keeping it strong.

On the other side of things, I’ve seen nonprofits fail because they didn’t keep up with their database. People got dropped from the email list. The only mailings they received were infrequent donor appeals. The nonprofit didn’t keep up with their database, and they suffered as attendance, engagement, and donations dropped.

Keep your organization healthy by keeping your database healthy and active. It can mean life or death for your group.

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