Raiser’s Edge™ Database Management Tips & Tricks with Omatic’s Sean Lottman

Jun 3, 2015

Sean Lottman, bCRE, is a Software Solutions Consultant with Omatic. The Omatic crew is thrilled to have him on board as a relatively new team member! When Sean is not enjoying hiking, he conducts Raiser’s Edge (RE) and fundraising consulting engagements. He also delivers client software trainings on Omatic products. Let’s catch up with Sean as he offers up some invaluable insights and advice regarding your database.

What are some common challenges your clients face with data management?
From what I’ve seen, consistency appears to be the biggest challenge. Every leader has different visions on direction and strategy, which can lead to inconsistent organizational practices. For instance, if key players leave the organization (the person who decided to purchase RE or the person who configures RE a certain way), the team could be left with no real direction or strategy. Very often employees are in silos and have no idea how their data management impacts others. This is why documenting everything is so important – to maintain consistency and continuity.

If you could give your clients one major tip to enhance their use of RE, what would that be?
My biggest piece of advice would be to create a detailed policy and procedure manual for database management and enforce it. Don’t just include how you are using the software, but also include the “why” behind it so that anyone could jump in if needed. This manual should handle both database management as well as additional aspects of the organization and its specific business practices. In the last few years there have been some pretty high profile cases with organizations encountering various issues accepting major gifts. Many issues can be avoided by having established organizational guidelines database management.

You’ve audited several databases throughout your career. Why should organizations consider doing a database audit?
Garbage in, garbage out. When you don’t have good data, everything falls apart. I’ve always felt that data entry is one of the most important jobs at an organization because everything stems from that. You can have the most elaborate report in the world, but it won’t mean anything if the data you are pulling is not correct. When the data isn’t accurate, it impacts everyone from the people who pull reports to the Major Gifts Officers trying to cultivate large gifts. Making sure the database is clean is important so the other dominoes fall into place.

What areas of RE do you typically examine when conducting a database audit?
I really get into configuration and look at how organizations are handling tables and fields within RE. It can be somewhat of a “canary in a coal mine.” When you start looking at how these things are being used, you can get an idea of the overall health of the database. You can tell when there’s been turnover or no in-depth knowledge of RE, and some of what you find are symptoms of a much larger issue.

You’ve also conducted quite a few data migration projects. What advice can you offer to an organization preparing for a data migration?
Prior to embarking on a data migration, you should sit down, talk about the data, and make a plan not only for where the data is going but ultimately for what you’d like to do with it. Discuss the bigger picture, including where you want to be in a year and beyond. Sometimes an organization will have a clear goal but no way to measure it. It is so important to establish both the path and benchmarks to get to your goal. Finally, try to think about how the data flows into your goals and decide what data is imperative to migrate over and what is not. Know why you want to collect certain pieces of data.

What do you enjoy most about your role as software solutions consultant at Omatic?
I enjoy working with people and seeing them take the first step towards what may be a significant change, then being able to engage with them later to hear their success stories. It’s exciting to watch organizations progress and meet goals or develop new plans. I get to help establish a vision and a strategy for how to get there, and at times help configure their database in order to have quantifiable data to establish whether they hit their goal. The work that I do is both rewarding and stimulating.

So, give us the inside scoop, what is your favorite Omatic product and why?
ImportOmatic – hands down. It changed my world. My first experience with IOM was in Australia when I was working for Blackbaud. It’s so much easier to import data regardless of the data source. SegmentOmatic is a close second favorite of mine because I feel there are uses beyond just segmentation. For instance, organizations can discover things about their data that they weren’t aware of prior to using SegmentOmatic. It carves up their data in various ways and they are then truly able to investigate their data, learn more about constituents, find anomalies, etc.

Finally, when you aren’t busy conducting training sessions, data migrations, database audits, and the like, what can we find you doing?
I’m currently trying to plan a wedding with my fiancé, Lauren. Plus, I actually like to unplug from data and technology from time to time! I enjoy walking my blue tick coon hound, Otie. I also enjoy kayaking and climbing walls.

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Omatic Software
Omatic Software is dedicated to integrating disparate systems and democratizing data access for today’s nonprofits. Founded in 2002, Omatic has worked with thousands of nonprofits globally to remove their data barriers by integrating systems and enabling nonprofit teams to leverage their donor data rather than be burdened by it. The Omatic team has one goal – unleashing the power of data to show a complete view of your donor, enabling data-driven decision making and opportunity creation for your organization.