Non-profit database administration can be challenging due to a variety of factors, including multiple administrators and users, old records, disparate constituent groups, and shifting reporting needs. Now, because it’s not easy to effectively evaluate and accumulate organizational data, competent database management can make you a priceless resource and even a – wizard, to your colleagues.

Best Practices

Here are best practices for non-profit database administrators who want to make a difference:

  • Make time to be strategic. If you don’t have a destination at the top of the priority list, you won’t get there. This applies to set up your framework, preparing your staff to utilize a database and adding refinements. This to processes and forms.
  • When building questionnaires or forms, ask only for the information you require. For funder/stakeholder reports, quality of care, program management, etc. In general, the more you request users to enter, the lower response rates you will get from clients and client-facing staff.
  • Keep records – ideally in your database – about how the database is set up. This could incorporate what grant/funder reporting needs are and where the data lives. Also, any data not tracked in the system along with why and planned future enhancements. Most database administrator jobs aren’t lifelong positions, so the ins and outs of your system should not live in one individual’s memory.


  • Collecting loads of data isn’t necessarily a good thing, it can even distract you from seeing what’s really vital to your mission. Keep in mind that sheer volume does not necessarily correlate with the usefulness and quality of data. The same is true for reporting – simple information can be just as meaningful as information that’s been via multiple manipulations and filters.
  • To gather the right information, begin with the results/ performance measures you require and work your way backward. Decide how you would define mission success and how you could demonstrate that success to stakeholders. Be specific.
  • Use extreme caution when “cleaning up” the forms and data. When in doubt, “hide” instead of delete – any formerly used forms and fields. Someone else may require the data that they hold.

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