Systems and Database Manager
FutureDharma is a charity within the Triratna Buddhist Community. It is a fundraising and grant-making body, supporting a range of small and large Triratna projects around the world, projects that wouldn’t otherwise be possible without collective support.
The charity has a small team that requires Internet IT support in three areas:
- The development and maintenance of their donor database
- Their WordPress website
- Google Workspace
A Customer Relationships Management (CRM) System is a type of Web-based software, designed to help any medium-sized upwards business to keep track of its customers or donors, its transactions (products, services, or donations), and use that data to design campaigns.
FutureDharma was working with a Salesforce instance when I joined at the beginning of 2020. Whilst it had been put through some minimal config, my strarting project was to give shape to a volume of data that had been loosely collated, then bulk imported without any real strategy. Although in principle a fundraiser could contact a donor, or potential donor, and use their record as basis for a conversation, in practice much of what they might have found on it amounted to misinformation because so much of it was either out-of-date, or of dubious provenance.
so I started by devising some basic business logic – a reason for information to be there at all – in such a way that we could begin to develop a donor journey. Over a period of several years I weeded out the many redundant and distracting fields. I created custom collections of information (what Salesforce calls “objects”) to limit the multifarious and proliferating spreadsheets beloved of our fundraisers, including one to make managing Major Donors data driven. I devised multiple processes for downloading and importing routine donation records from our payment gateways. A really significant step was shaping that data so that we can meaningfully segment for Mailchimp, something that had been aspirational up to that point.
Unfortunately however, our team of fundraisers consistently found the Salesforce UI so intimidating, that they were unwilling to use it, and after several attempts at on-boarding and training, sold on the merits of a data driven approach, the Directors started looking at alternatives CRMs. During our evaluation of Beacon, a very lean system developed specifically for charities, we discovered that the fundraisers responded very favorably to the layout, filtering and dashboard tools; it’s UI had a air of familiarity that made it feel comfortable. So I went on to design and execute a successful migration plan, where the whole team took the opportunity to look at the database from a granular perspective, and the net result were a happier and more productive fundraising team.
There was a well setup WordPress installation utilizing the Divi theme when I started working for FutureDharma. Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic the website was mainly used as prospectus, not a fundraising tool, but as the first lockdown got under way, the site had to pivot hard towards brokering donations. Much of what I did here was develop and refine the use of our GiveWP plugin, in combination with Divi. But the biggest leap forward was a circular development workflow, using WP CLI, to keep a sandbox site fresh, and use that to experiment, test and deploy major updates back to the public facing, production site.
Google Workspace features a set of cloud-based, productivity and collaboration tools, many of which will be very familiar to anyone who has a personal, free Google account: Gmail, Contacts, Calendar, and Drive for storage; the Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides editors suite. The emphasis is on team collaboration, and Google Workspace adds business-grade features, particularly the capacity to create email accounts under a domain name (e.g. @futuredharma.org), and additional administrative tools, with advanced settings, available under an Admin control panel system. Given that FutureDharma is a completely remote-working enterprise, an integrated toolset like this is essential.
Whilst Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides editors are great for on-the-fly collaborations, I developed a much better facility with Microsoft Excel (especially formulas), and even overcame an irrational aversion to Powerpoint, which I used to create training and coaching materials.