We’ve been thinking a lot lately about nonprofit’s access to their own data and came across a white paper published by Blackbaud in 2009 titled “Set Your Data Free”. Even though it’s 8 years old, the information is even more important today than it was then.
Here are our thoughts on some of the points made in the white paper.
“A potential stumbling block to storing data is data “lock-in,” a situation where an organization’s data is stored in third-party systems that don’t include built-in tools for complete, standards-compliant data-access. At the very least, data lock-in causes unease, and at worst, it compromises an organization’s ability to act effectively.”
Here at Frakture we come across data “lock-in” situations more often than we would like. Clients tell us they need to contact their vendor to get access to their data and sometimes have to pay for the access. This is like having a storage unit that you pay monthly for and then every time you visit the unit, you have to pay an additional fee to access your things. Many clients ask us if we can access credit card information of their monthly donors and unfortunately the answer is no. The work Frakture’s Bots do can seem like magic, but at the end of the day, they can only pull data that is also available to a human.
“Data must be accessible to external software systems as well as human users. In addition to being able to manually trigger exports of your data, your organization needs software systems that can respond to programmatic (sent from other software) requests for data export. Avoid systems that don’t include programmatic access; they will force you to create manual operational processes to achieve even the most basic data objectives.”
We couldn’t agree more! The main reason Frakture exists is because we continued to see that nonprofits were adding new platforms and technologies that contained donor data but didn’t always have a way to connect them to their current systems. This is what Frakture’s Bots do, we pull data from your databases and push it into a central Data Warehouse. From the central Data Warehouse, the data is normalized, transformed and then specific people data or groups of people can be pushed into one of the other systems and the rest of the data is pushed to a table view to plug in a data visualization or business intelligence tool. Here’s a list of systems Frakture has Bots for.
“Data should export in CSV or XML formats. Your marketing database, customer services system, donor database, and, in fact, all of your systems should be capable of exporting your data. Moreover, the export mechanisms should be:
* Built in: You should not have to contact your vendor to access your data.
* Included in the base price: Vendors that charge you to access your own data should be avoided.
* Able to produce files in an industry-standard format: Comma separated value (CSV) files, or, increasingly, extensible markup language (XML) files are the most portable formats. Avoid proprietary formats that can’t be easily imported into other systems.”
Agreed. These are all great questions to ask when you are searching for a new system or renewing your contract.
“Here’s a final thought: Assume you have data accessibility requirements like those described in this paper even if that isn’t currently the case. Eventually you will want to replace your existing system with a new one, add a robust data-backup strategy, or share data between two different systems. Starting with and maintaining a commitment to data accessibility from the beginning is much easier and less costly than rescuing “locked-in” data once you are years down the road!”
Absolutely, we completely agree! If data accessibility is important to you, one of the cool features of Frakture is that we not only futureproof your data, but we also make it really easy to switch between systems. Frakture works with the hub and spoke model versus using point to point integrations. So, if all your systems are connected to your central data warehouse as the hub, then when one system gets replaced, Frakture plugs in the new system and all the data flows and automations that were previously built keep running.
One more thought. In addition to access to your data, Frakture believes strongly in allowing you to keep all of your data. Frakture pricing is independent of volume. Pricing is the same if your list is 85,000 people or 1 million people. Pricing is the same if you have 10,000 donors or 200,000. In fact, Frakture only charges for Bots and not the amount of data flowing or the amount of data we are storing for you.