“Don’t tell that to other nonprofit people. They’ll hate you.”
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“Don’t tell that to other nonprofit people. They’ll hate you.”

“Don’t tell that to other nonprofit people. They’ll hate you.”

In my first year as an executive director at an arts nonprofit, I did a full overhaul of our database, moving from an aging MS Access/ SQL server platform to Salesforce. I did it because my staff was wasting time and energy on basic data tasks that could be automated, and I was betting that we’d see a financial payoff to make it worth the investment. The results were better than I dared to expect, and went way beyond basic automation.

Here’s what we had when the project was finished, that I tried so hard not to brag about:

  • I could de-dupe and normalize addresses for our patron and donor data in 2 minutes.
  • Data entry for a stack of incoming donations, whether by mail, credit card, or added to a ticket sale never took more than 20 minutes.
  • I had an online dashboard, accessible from anywhere, that would give me an up-to-the-minute snapshot of donations, ticket sales, and program stats.
  • Staff of all levels, with minimal training, could create custom reports on their own to answer any question they had, and move on to acting on the data within half an hour.
  • Upon seeing a donor in a lobby I could, with a discreet look at my phone, see her donation, attendance and volunteer history on one screen before walking over to chat with her.
  • My development director could easily merge data to send donation appeals that included last show attended and prior donation amounts.
  • We could quickly find the answer to questions like “Are there people coming to our benefit who donated two years ago but not last year or this year?” or marketing questions like “Are ticket sales predictable by the day of the week?”


All of this is possible for you too, and it’s not as disruptive, expensive or time-consuming as you think. In fact, that’s one of the big reasons I joined Arts Progress – I like doing this stuff, and I want to improve things for everyone else in our industry. As for the money, I can tell you that not only did this project pay for itself at Fringe with cleaner marketing data and more integrated fundraising info, it led to more than one year-end surplus.


Want this for yourself? It probably won’t make you popular at nonprofit gatherings, but I promise it’s worth it. Send me a message and we’ll get you started.