As a database consultant and trainer to non-profits, I am often asked about what role an Executive Director should have in a development database. After over 10 years of consulting and training for hundreds of organizations, I’ve seen every extreme imaginable, from totally Draconian hands-on involvement, to absolute arm’s length, “I don’t want to touch it” standoffishness. As with most things, somewhere in the middle is ideal. The goal of this series of posts is to offer some insights into the role an Executive Director should play when it comes to a development database. Generally, I work with organizations that have already purchased (usually at a hefty premium) a database product; here’s just a sampling of some of the responses I hear when I talk to Executive Directors about database maintenance and training:


  •  “I don’t use the database for that; I do all that in Excel.”
  • “I’m not a computer person; I let my staff handle that.”
  • “I can’t justify spending all that money on training; what if they quit?”
  •  “We have a board member who is an absolute wiz in Access! She built us a very customized database. We’re just so different than other organizations that we couldn’t ever totally rely on any “off the shelf” program. We only use the database for tracking gifts.”

In this series of posts, I’ll address the dangers of each of the responses, so if any of these sound familiar, check back for some help and tips.