This information is designed especially for small mission-based organizations (nonprofits, non-governmental organizations or NGOs, civil society organizations, public sector agencies, etc.) with very limited staffing and funds.
Just because your fund raising consultant uses a Macintosh and you have an IBM clone, or just because she uses one kind of database program and you use another, doesn't mean you can't import information from her database -- or just about any other database -- into your own.
And you don't need the latest versions of database software to import and export information that almost any other database can read. Exporting is easier than importing, however.
There's several ways one can go about importing data into a database (exporting data from a database is so easy that it is not explained here; consult your database software support materials). But there are certain rules that aren't covered in software manuals regarding importing information. The following is from my own learnings, as well as from others with whom I've talked about such things (yes, people -- and not just techies -- do talk about such things...)
I think the following works best for importing data into a "customer" database (one that tracks a targeted audience, volunteers, donors, subscribers, etc. -- PEOPLE), no matter what kind of computerized database you have. But please note that some database packages may not need all of these steps.
The most important rule regarding importing information into a
If you are importing information into your customer/people database, copy the database and all files associated with this database into a separate folder or directory, and work with the copy. Then, when you are done importing information and know that everything worked out okay, replace your database original with the copy you've been working from. This will reduce the chance of people getting error messages while using the database, and it's less likely that your database will crash in the middle of your work. It will also prevent you from losing your precious original data.
The second most important rule is:
Don't do any other projects or leave in the middle of importing data or checking for duplicate records. Otherwise, you might find yourself lost when trying to find the place where you left off.
If you are still working with the data as a text or word-processing file (MS Word, ClarisWorks, WordPerfect, etc.), I strongly urge you to copy the cells from the word processing document and paste them into a spreadsheet document, such as Microsoft Excel, at this point.
NOTE 1: If you are using Microsoft Excel and need to save your data in d-base, you will need to highlight all of the cells that have information and choose "set database". Then, choose "Save As" and choose .dbf or d-base; then close this document.
NOTE 2: If Database B is actually a joined database file of different databases, you will need to do the EXTRA STEP below before proceeding.
EXTRA STEP: After step #6, import database A information into database B (yes, that's backwards from what you are ultimately intending to do), so you can overwrite any incorrect information with your own; then, go ahead to step #7
This comprehensive web site provides detailed information about a variety of technology-related issues specifically for mission-based organizations. This includes resources and advice regarding databases. It provides some of the best information you can find regarding technology resources for mission-based organizations. TechSoup is based in San Francisco, California.
The Nonprofit Matrix
an online guide to Application Service Providers (ASPs) and Portal providers in the nonprofit sector. ASPs offer outsourced services that can enhance your organization's web presence with a minimum of programming and administrative effort. These include web sites and web "portals" that provide online databases of volunteering opportunities that the nonprofit agency controls, online donation accounts, and affinity shopping accounts.
Nonprofit Internet Standards Project
Data processing applications and information used by nonprofit organizations are migrating to the Internet and to networks in general. Consequently, there is a greater need than ever before for standards for the exchange of data, information, and knowledge by nonprofits, their service providers, and their stakeholders. Developing and publishing these standards in an open and participatory way will allow the benefits of the process to be felt broadly throughout the nonprofit sector. Therefore, nonprofits should play a central role in setting the standards. Don't let this topic sound scary to you. If you use databases in any way, shape or form and you represent a nonprofit organization, this is a very important topic that affects you!
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