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New + Shiny Software = Better?

In September 2019, our team was beginning a fresh relationship with a new client. We will refer to them as Client X for privacy reasons. Client X was ready to migrate to a software solution that would provide them a CRM (constituent relationship manager), tools to build forms and peer based events, email and text marketing tools, as well as easy to use reporting.

In our kick off meeting with Client X, we wanted to understand current software in use to form a plan around cleaning up and migrating their data to the new platform of choice, Engaged Donor. What we learned was astonishing.

Client X, had 29 different tools doing everything from processing transactions to collecting contact data.

How Client X Arrived Here

As we discussed how they arrived in such a fragmented data setup we learned a lot. For example, we learned that the team member who sent out weekly emails liked simple tools and signed them up for MailChimp. Another team member who was responsible for growing online giving signed them up for systems such as; Benevity, Click&Pledge, Giving Direct, Global Giving, Mobile Cause and PayPal… to name a few. Then there were staff in other departments who had found tools that made it easier for them to fundraise, or create reports, or do a dozen other things.

What Client X created for themselves was a setup where it was impossible to see one person’s complete giving history, and no way of creating meaningful online engagement as they often didn’t even have complete contact details for those on their MailChimp email list. So, we got to work!

How We Helped

Our team went through every system, pulled out every contact record and any engagement they had with Client X. This may have been a donation, event registration or newsletter subscription. We then matched the files from all the tools against one another to create comprehensive contact records and loaded them into Engaged Donor. For the first time, Client X, could search for Susie Q in their database and see that she had been a supporter for 12 years, given $6,000 and attended two events, all while opting out of email communications.

My goal here is not to sing our praises (okay maybe a little, sing sing!), but to point out a mistake we see made all too often. When there is a database or email marketing tool in place, there is always one lurking around the corner that is newer, shinier, cheaper, faster, better and stronger in someone’s opinion. When staff are left to their own devices, and not asked to bring new technology to the greater team for review, you end up with 29 systems and a multi-year data mess that takes hundreds of hours to repair.

The Hard Truth

However, there is often a solution to avoid this type of situation. Education! Often, when we are told the software doesn’t work, or can’t do something, it is due to lack of knowledge around the product. Yes, sometimes software can’t do exactly what you want, but there may be a workaround, or a way to create something similar to your vision. The reality is, staff should learn to fully understand their data and marketing tools before jumping from one tool to the next. Doing so creates an environment of naysayers who continuously find fault in tools and never embrace the tools they have to maximize their potential. If you don’t have the staff or time to learn your primary tools, outsource to an expert who can help you (shameless plug for Team Digitiv!).

Moral of the story: Learn to use your tools to know if they are right for you, and only migrate away once you have fully determined a tool can’t meet your needs. You’ll have cleaner data and better marketing in the long run.

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