Action for Street Kids is a charity that works very hard to help homeless children, both in the UK and throughout the world. Like all charities, they depend on and are grateful for every donation they receive. ASK recognises that their donors want as much of that donation as possible to go towards helping kids in desperate circumstances, rather than paying for costly overheads in terms of IT infrastructure, technical support teams, software licenses etc.
Multiple disconnected databases
The Action for Street Kids fundraising team did, and continue to do excellent work to raise money for the charity. They achieve this by pursuing lots of different avenues and income streams. ASK accumulated multiple different databases, each sitting in different software applications. This created a challenge that it was difficult to analyse the bigger picture. Reports could be run against each database, but it was difficult to see how everything fitted together. Perhaps a bigger problem is that it was difficult to identify individual donors that existed in multiple databases, as there was no mechanism to cross reference one database against another. Seemingly simple tasks like identifying donors that had bought a raffle ticket but never subscribed to be a regular donor required significant, time consuming work and ultimately costly data processing work.
The databases were offline and platform dependent. This meant that the ASK team had to work on specific computers connected to their local network. It would become increasingly difficult to grow the charity without substantially increasing running costs, because each team member would need a desk and office space, when in fact much of the work could be done from home or on the train if the software allowed, thus reducing the need for office space and specific equipment.
Who supports what?
The ongoing day to day data management is of course only one small part of what a charity does. Quite apart from its primary cause, which of course should take up most of its time, there are also the periodic or incident driven appeal campaigns to prepare and run. These require a significant amount of data processing work, printing, mailing etc. It is also necessary to constantly measure the success rate of past and present appeals, to ensure that the charity as a whole is getting everything right.
With multiple different database systems, each storing the data in a slightly different way, and each providing different functionality from a different vendor, it was tedious and time consuming for the ASK team to coordinate the management and support of their data and IT systems and to make good use of their supporter data. All of this looked set to take time, energy and money away from Action for Street Kids’ primary cause, which is to help improve the lives of homeless kids.
Action for Street Kids started working together with Jacqui and her team in early 2015. In our initial discussions, we listened while managing director, David Beck, explained the challenges he faced, and we were pleased to be able to propose a single solution to those challenges.
The first thing to do was to gather all of ASK’s existing data, from their multiple databases, and consolidate it into a single clean, easily manageable dataset.
As the data was coming from multiple systems, each with differing levels of data validation on entry, and each with different data structures, we had to apply a range of our services, including database build, data cleansing and merge-purge to create a single, clean, unified dataset.
To enable the ASK team to view and manage their data securely, from anywhere, we made configured an account for them in our Boardroom platform. While we already had an existing charity edition, it did not meet all of ASK’s needs, so working closely with David at ASK, we took advantage of Boardroom’s flexible architecture to build a bespoke configuration designed specifically for ASK.
Having built ASK’s Boardroom configuration, and cleaned and migrated their data, we can now provide assurances that their data is secure, always available to them, and with ASK’s permission, readily accessible to us. This enables us to provide both technical support for their day to day IT activities, as well as enabling us to prepare appeal mailings at their request, measure the success of their mailings through KPIs, and at their request, to move data to and from other partners.
Continue to Part 2 to see how the solution is working in practice.