Do-it-Yourself? Some Thoughts About Outsourcing Your Fundraising Database

T-123-0126by Jeanette Eesmann-Foster

In the age that everyone can host their own website, create databases, make your own blog or make your own direct mailing, the obvious question is why outsource at all anymore?

The tools to do the complete database housing, maintenance and development are readily available. In the last 10 years, very efficient software has arrived on the market in Europe that can in some cases even combine financial and marketing information.

After all, if the finance department is happy with any decision we make about a database, then our lives as marketers will be much easier.

But is it important to have software that combines financial administration and marketing knowledge? Or isn’t it better to look for the most suited financial software and the best marketing solution? This basic first decision has to be part of an initial audit. It can be beneficial to have a combination as it avoids duplicated efforts. In the end, the decision depends on the goals – marketing and financial.

The advantages of keeping everything in-housing are of course the control issue. All aspects of the database – financial, marketing, data protection – are fully accessible and only influenced by one in-house member of staff.

The advantages of outsourcing the marketing database are to offer more continuity.

When holding the database in-house, staffing with the correct employee is the most difficult thing. They go on vacation, sick leave or beware…go on a sabbatical! If you have a good handbook and good documentation, servicing might continue. Chances are that the new, replacement member of staff is not fully up to date and mistakes happen. Some mistakes can only be visible after many years (coding issues, wrong allocations, etc.). To help avoid this, backup staff is needed. But who can afford that?

The biggest disadvantage of outsourcing is the fact that it’s not always possible to outsource at all. The programs have been designed against the background of fitting the profile of more than one customer and custom made adjustments are costly.

So when making a decision to move your database in-house or to outsource, the following questions need to be answered:

  • are your staff properly trained and instructed?
  • are backup staff available?
  • what is the data back up & security procedure?
  • do you have clear goals of what the marketing database needs to achieve?

In case you want to outsource you need to ask yourself:

  • control issues; how can you keep control?
  • what back up procedures and security is in place?
  • have you set clear goals of what the marketing database needs to achieve?
  • what do custom adjustments to the program cost and are they possible?

These few questions are very basic. When making the decision to move your database in-house or to outsource, an audit of the existing situation and future expectations is crucial and needs to be carried out. This audit should be done for both options – in-housing or outsourcing.

After all, it might not be the last move and good documentation is the absolute basis of a continuously efficient marketing database.

With 20 plus years in fundraising, Mrs. Jeanette Eesmann-Foster has implemented many databases (with a marketing perspective) and has worked with many database suppliers and fundraising programs.

This is the fifth post in our series Modern Database Management. The previous articles can be found here.