Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Take the dullness out of databases

Database schema diagram for MediaWiki 1.10Image via Wikipedia

We know databases aren’t very sexy. But we also know they are integral to the smooth running of an arts organisation. And a good database can make the difference between a very successful arts organisation and one that’s struggling to make ends meet. You might be asking how a load of information on a database could make such a difference. It’s just a load of names and numbers isn’t it? Wrong. Your data is your gold. It’s where you store the names of customers who’ve bought tickets – so you know what you can target them with when you’ve got a new production or event. It contains your membership list so you can see when people are coming up for renewals.

But many organisations don’t have one central database. Instead they have the information they need spread across different access databases, excel spreadsheets and email accounts. Often different people are responsible for updating different bits of information (or where they are held). This usually leads to a huge amount of duplication, both of information and effort and leaves the door wide open for inconsistency and mistakes.

  • What are the benefits to have one properly maintained and centrally controlled database?
  • Your information is more secure – you don’t have to worry about the security of data across different locations. And you can do central backups regularly.
  • Your staff can share information – you can make notes on each piece of data so all your staff have the same information when they access the database. You’ll avoid mistakes like one staff member asking for a donation of £100 when last year the patron donated £100,000! You’ll also vastly reduce duplication of records.
  • You can produce one report that focuses on different areas of your arts organisation – membership sign ups, ticket sales – helping you identify which customers need chasing up for renewals or a good sales opportunity.
  • You can easily share information with customers, members and partners via your website. Your website can pull information directly from your central database when a visitor needs it. You can also link your database to other systems which will allow you to contact customers, for example an email system so you can contact potential customers about an upcoming show.

In the current climate with many arts organisations facing cuts the way you fundraise and deal with customers will become integral to your future. A good central database can bring together your fundraising, membership and patron management with your ticket sales and ongoing customer contact. If you’d like to know more about bringing all your information into one central database contact Masque Arts on +44 (0)20 7100 6010 or email us for further information.

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