Since you clicked on the link to this blog post, chances are you are having trouble with your database, or maybe you know someone who does. Well you aren’t alone. In this series we’re looking at three things that can make your database suck be less than ideal. Last time we looked at what happens to your database when you have no standards. Today we’re going to look at…

Part Two: Secret Stashes

Does this sound like your organization?

  • You have a database of all your members, but the person who is coordinating the Special Project has a group in Outlook that they use to email their volunteers.
  • You want to send a follow up to an event, so you have to find the Excel Spreadsheet (or the sheet of paper) you used for sign-in.
  • You’ve got the contact information for a group in your database, but only their contact information. To really know what’s going on with these people you should step into your coworker’s office and talk with them.

I see this problem all the time. You think you have all the necessary information in your database, but someone (or maybe some people) are keeping a secret stash of information on their computer, in their heads or on their desks. This means that no one can be sure that they have the complete picture of a particular constituent, so any decision being made on how to communicate with them or how to mobilize them, is impaired. In addition, it also means that should the owner of the stash move on, or go on vacation, the organization itself loses valuable information that it needs to carry out its mission

How to solve this problem

There may be several reasons for secret stashes and depending on what’s going on in your organization, you may want to try one of the following

Re-assess your needs – Take a look at what sort of information people have stashed away. Their stashes could point to ways in which your organization’s technology needs have changed. If this is the case, talk to your database providers and see if there are ways to meet these new needs.

Work on trust – Trust is often a core issue in keeping stashes of information. Sometimes, staff don’t trust the database system (“The last system crashed and lost all our data, so I prefer to keep everything in Google Docs.”) and occasionally they don’t trust other parts of the organization (“Well, I really don’t want these contacts to be inundated with fundraising emails, so I’m not putting them in the database.”). You can’t solve trust issues with technology, instead you work on communicating well with your staff, listening to their needs and making sure that both your staff and technology are trustworthy.

Check out our series on rogue databases for more help in rooting out secret stashes.

Talk Back: Do you have secret stashes in your organization? Are you the keeper of your own secret stash? Tell us what your stash looks like and why you have one.