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Online Databases

The description ‘online database’ (Note: dB is common shorthand for database) is used to mean a few different things; read on to find out what and what you should know about each when implementing an online system for your association or non-profit organisation.

Databases (dB) Vs Database Management Systems (dBMS)

Before we analyse the types and forms of database it is important to draw a distinction between pure databases and database management systems.

The database (as the name suggests) is where the raw data is stored, it is the actual structure of the data and the data compression that allows us to store and retrieve large quantities quickly.

The Database Management System is the system that we use to manage the data, load it in, move it around, segment it etc. It is the part that brings that data to life and makes the system useful, it helps us move from data to information upon which we take actions.

The fact is that almost everyone uses these terms database and Database Management System interchangeably, to the extent that the formal and correct description Database Management System is not really use any more, and we will do the same!

Database driven Websites

Sometimes websites themselves are labelled ‘database driven’. This is because the system that supports the website, and provides functions such as Content Management (CMS) all underpinned by databases. These databases are usually hosted in the same place as the website and help to manage the copy, images and code that are necessary to run the website. These databases also run the interfaces that administrators use to make changes to their websites.

Other functionality that requires databases

The fact is that most online functionality requires underlying databases. A good example is broadcast email newsletter functionality. As you might expect the information about the individuals is stored in an online database, but other functions are also build on the dB:

  • - The functionality that allows you to selected groups online fly (e.g. select all of the females in Sydney)
  • - The newsletter content is likely stored in the database
  • - The statistical information (volume sent, bounces, opens, click-thoughs etc) is too

Because so much of the functionality that we have come to expect of online systems is run by databases, we need to be careful using the term and be as specific as possible.

Common meanings of ‘Online Database’

In the Associations and non-profit sector the term ‘database’ is often used to refer to the contact data at the heart of the organisation. This includes the following types of database:

Membership databases (MDB) / Membership Management database (MMBD)

Membership databases contain all of the details connected with members, memberships contact histories and more. When these membership databases are online they often have the capability to manage financial transactions such as joining and renewals.

Constituent relationship management (CRM) systems

Constituent relationship management systems capture the details and associated history of constituents: the people of importance to charities and non-profits. These systems are very similar to customer relationship management systems, which makes the use of the acronym doubly confusing!

Donor management databases

Donor management systems also track information on people and their relationship history with and organisation. In this case however there is a quite specific purpose to the system (donation generation) which dictates the structures and interfaces that are required. Again when these databases are taken online they can be equipped to manage communications and transactions.

Contact databases

The contact database is essentially a simpler or entry level version of all of the above. Contact databases are an essential component of any organisation and they are usually the first stepping stone towards something more sophisticated. Contact databases can easily be managed though the most common software, like Microsoft excel or Access.

LCubed are the online specialists for non-profits and associations. We can help you decide upon and implement the optimal database.

At LCubed we believe that databases are essential to all organisations, but we go a step further and make those databases work for you (instead of you working on the database), by taking them online.

Here is how we look at it:

Databases = Data

Database management system (e.g. CRM) = Information & Knowledge

Integrated dB and website = CRM + Interactions + automation + efficiencies + improved service

Please give us a call (1300 528 233), or leave us your inquiry via the form and we will be in touch as soon as we can.

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