by Sasha Daucus
When Siena/Francis House began to grow, it also found the need to change how it was using FundRaiser. For one thing, with more staff members simultaneously using the software, FundRaiser was slowing down. For another, more users meant more need to coordinate work within the database.
Siena/Francis House is Nebraska’s largest shelter serving homeless men, women, and children, and growing quickly. In the past seven years, “we’ve grown from 86 to 222 beds for the men guests. Within 2 months of building the new men’s shelter, we were laying down mats for overflow. Depending on the weather, we now house as many as 300 to 350 men, women and children guests a night and serve 900 meals a day. We’re expanding our women’s shelter soon to double the number of women we can help,” says Marge Harman, Information Technology Administrator for the organization.
To keep up with this kind of growth, Siena/Francis House needed a quick-working database. “We were using FundRaiser Professional with multi-user options,” says Marge. “We have over 200,000 donor records. On our network, even two people in FundRaiser made the program slow down. I called FundRaiser Technical Support and asked if there was something we could do to tweak it.”
Technical Support offered a simple solution: move from FundRaiser Multi-User to FundRaiser Client-Server. Although Multi-User is an economical way for multiple users to work in FundRaiser, Client-Server is a more complete solution. Compared to Multi-User, the Client-Server version of FundRaiser can dramatically speed up access times, increase efficiency, and improve data integrity for multiple users.
Marge decided to upgrade to the Client-Server version, and got the results she wanted. “Sometimes I have as many as five people in FundRaiser and it’s like the other people aren’t even on there. I see no slowdown. We haven’t had any conflict accessing the same record at the same time.”
The Siloam Family Health Center, another growing organization, also uses Client-Server. Over the years, Siloam Family Health Center started through the volunteer work of one physician in Nashville, Tennessee. Today, the clinic coordinates almost 120 providers and more than 16,000 appointments yearly to help uninsured in the Middle Tennessee region.
Fundraising and volunteering are critical to their work. FundRaiser Professional is the database they use for donor and volunteer management. The Client-Server version of FundRaiser allows for multiple users to work in the program simultaneously, even while off the premises.
The primary reasons that users move to Client- Server is to
In the future, Client-Server will also allow for the use of online integration features, designed to make accepting donations and volunteers via the web as easy as possible.
The faster, more reliable functioning of Client-Server as compared to Multi-User is due to ‘behind the scenes’ differences.When two or more work stations access FundRaiser in the Multi-User version, each computer opens a full copy of the software. In the Client-Server version, one computer, called the “server”, opens the data. Each work station then only receives the specific data it needs for its current work. This is much more efficient.
Marge at Siena/Francis House has developed clear-cut jobs for everyone who works in the database. She also oversees the work to make sure that coding and other entries are consistent among all users. She makes sure the new users receive training in using the database.
“When I have a new person starting, they take the initial training with FundRaiser. I go through the training with them, too, and I pick up something every time,” says Marge.
Frequent data back-ups are another ‘best practice’. This requires a little more coordination with multiple users than with single users. Deborah Stein, Administrative Assistant and the main FundRaiser user at the Siloam Family Health Center, backs up daily. “Since we have several users I have to catch it when I’m the only one on it. I do it first thing in the morning, before everybody has logged on. I’ve found that is the easiest time. I like to make sure that I do a backup once a day.”
Controlling access to sensitive information is also important with multiple users. Custom password protection makes that easy. At the Siloam Family Health Center, “everyone on staff has access to FundRaiser, but not all the tabs. For instance, volunteers can’t see the financial tabs,” says Deborah.
As a rough rule of thumb, there are two kinds of work to be done in the database.
Once multiple users begin to use FundRaiser, there is a tendency for these two functions to be covered by different people.
At Siena/Francis House, Marge and her assistant cover the functional aspects of database use. The development director also has access, for informational purposes. “He’s thrilled he can look for himself. He feels like he doesn’t have to bother me all the time,” says Marge.
Marge does all database work that is not handled by someone else. Her jobs include appeal mailings and making notes about donor preferences.
Marge’s assistant is responsible for helping record donations, assigning corresponding motivation codes and sending thank you letters. “When the donations come in, they are divided by appeals. We want to record that in the database accordingly. That lets the development director tell how successful a certain appeal is, for instance the Easter appeal, and so on,” says Marge.
Seasonally, when the work load is especially heavy, Marge hires some temporary help. The temps record smaller donations in FundRaiser. When working with temps, Marge goes back into the records later to verify entries and add notes. “I like leaving notes behind. So many donors have a particular way they want to be addressed. Our donors are our life blood and we want to address them the way they want to be addressed.”
Deborah, at the Siloam Family Health Center, is the main user of FundRaiser. “I enter donations, handle thank you letters, and enter other financial information.”
Volunteer Coordinator at Siloam Family Health Center, Beth Eichelberger, is responsible for volunteer records. Deborah and Beth frequently use FundRaiser at the same time.
“In addition, everyone on staff has access to some parts of the database. That allows them to get information without asking me for it,” says Deborah.
The CEO of Siloam Health Center also uses the database. “She has a lap top to access FundRaiser from home or when she goes out of town,” says Deborah. “She has been with Siloam for many years and used to know all the donors personally. Now the donor base is expanding. FundRaiser helps her to keep up with what comes in. She wants to know who has given recently or who hasn’t given in awhile. Sometimes she looks at the data used for financial reports. Although I generate the reports, she may want to look at the information directly herself.”
The custom page feature in FundRaiser allows for different users to designate which fields they want to have on a single page. “I like that different people can have a different custom page,” says Deborah. “Beth needs to have access to the volunteer information and I am more interested in the financial data.”
“We are trying to gain support to build a day center. We’ve renovated the front area so we can expand the areas for women,” says Marge about Siena/Francis House. “The need is there, that’s the sad thing,” says Marge. Siloam Family Health Center also continues to grow. Thanks to special funding from the Baptist Healing Trust and Psychiatric Solutions, Inc., Siloam started the new year with a by expanding to respond to needs expressed in the exam room that could be behavioral or spiritual in nature.
While the need is there, FundRaiser is proud to continue helping organizations like Siena/Francis House and Siloam Family Health Center.Sasha Daucus edits the FundRaiser Software newsletter, focusing on articles that help nonprofit organizations feel more comfortable with their donor management software tools. In her free time she enjoys cooking and listening to world music from the Mediterranean region..
Tips for Coordinating Multiple Users Working in FundRaiser by Larry Weaver
FundRaiser Software offers non-profit organizations intuitive donor management software that is easy to learn and easy to use. Three programs, ranging from simple to sophisticated, let you choose the features you need now, while guaranteeing a built-in growth path for the future. Software flexibility, budget options, and superb technical support make FundRaiser Software uniquely adaptable to the needs of non-profit organizations - whatever their mission.