7 Best Practices to Take Your eTapestry Database to the Next Level

Category: Best Practices

eTapestry® by Blackbaud® is a comprehensive constituent relationship management (CRM), fundraising, and donor management software. Like any software solution, some of its features can be overwhelming, complex or even unknown. However, there are tips, tricks, and best practices you can use to maximize your investment in eTapestry. This post offers seven best practices that can help your organization get the most from your eTapestry database.

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  • 1. Segment accounts with user-defined fields (UDFs)

    Segmenting accounts with user-defined fields is a best practice that takes planning, design, thought and discipline.

    When done right, segmentation with constituent account UDFs allow you to target donors, interact with donors, and serve donors in a specific and personalized way.

    Constituents have different characteristics, tastes, preferences, likes, dislikes and expectations. eTapestry offers a blank canvas for your organization to segment constituents based on these different qualities with user-defined fields (UDFs).

    Build constituent segmentation UDFs on the account object.

    Potential segmentations include communication preferences, topics of interest, whether an account likes being invited to events or not, or expected frequency of interaction, among others.

  • 2. Build a history of interactions

    While it is intuitive to track donations, pledges, and account information in eTapestry, don’t forget about contacts and notes.

    A journal full of contacts and notes produces a historical record of your engagement with a constituent.

    Tracking a history of engagement guarantees that you can always go back and review something if you forget or use this data to create more personalized appeals and fundraising efforts.

    As a best practice, log all interactions you have with a constituent and all interactions the constituent has with the organization (it works both ways). A detailed journal that contains not only gift and pledge records but also interaction and activity records, like notes and contacts, is extremely valuable.

  • 3. Track and measure fundraising performance

    While data entry is important, running consistent and purposeful reports is equally important. Too often data entry is the primary focus of an eTapestry database.

    Running reports and managing fundraising performance against benchmarks you set for your organization is critical to understanding which fundraising activities are successful, which ones aren’t, where your fundraising efforts are most effective, which constituents are high quality prospects, and the list goes on and on.

    The most critical and foundational area of fundraising performance management is on the journal transaction.

    Each transaction is tagged with a fund, campaign and approach. Each of these can be used for setting goals, forecasting, managing performance, and improving future fundraising results. Using all of the transaction attribution fields (i.e. fund, campaign, and approach) gives you the ability to analyze your revenue streams and benchmark fundraising performance to your forecasts.

  • 4. Expand data management capabilities

    eTapestry is more than just donor management software or a donor database. It can be used to track, manage and capture data for a variety of other uses. Some of these other uses include volunteers, grants, moves management, major gifts, planned giving, client services, surveys and event management.

    Instead of managing events, volunteers, or grants in spreadsheets, build event, volunteer, and grant tracking modules into your eTapestry database.

    eTapestry doesn’t come out the box with these features, but you can add them with custom UDFs.

    Tracking these areas in eTapestry can save you time and you will be able to generate cleaner more dynamic reports.

  • 5. Leverage standard queries and reports

    Each eTapestry software system comes with a number of standard queries. These queries are populated in the categories of Base, Constituent Journal Entry Date, Journal Entry Date, LYBUNT & SYBUNT, Pledges and Payments, and Processed Transactions. The queries in these categories are ready to use in the system day one.

    I recommend looking at standard queries before you build a new query.

    Does your query need match any of the pre-existing queries?

    A majority of the time, a pre-existing query contains the requirements of your new query. You can use a standard query as a starting point for your new query.  Pre-existing queries can save your organization time and stress when building queries.

    In addition, eTapestry comes with a number of standard reports. These reports are contained in the “eTapestry Standard Reports” section of the “Reports” drop-down.

    If you don’t use standard reports regularly, I recommend taking a second look at them. Only in rare cases would these reports never be used.

  • 6. Develop standard operating procedures

    This is a must for any organization that uses eTapestry software.

    Since reporting produces information your organization uses for strategic decision-making, it is important that your data is clean, accurate, and up to date. As a result, it is very important to define standard operating procedures for your organization.

    Standard operating procedures define how the organization will interact and use the database. This includes data entry, data management, system administration, reporting, and process management.

    Having clear operating procedures in each of these areas guarantees that you have accurate and complete information in your database and that your organization is taking full advantage of eTapestry’s features.

    Your eTapestry database is an asset. It contains information that is extremely valuable to your organization. Therefore, it is important to standardize the way you use the database.

  • 7. Run frequent data quality reports

    Data entry is the critical front-end component to good reporting and a healthy database. Maintain clean data by reviewing all new data entry in your database.

    Institute data quality control checks on a set schedule. While these quality control checks take time, you will be saving your organization considerable time long term with cleaner data, accurate reports, and consistent information.

    There are three data quality checks you can run on a monthly basis.

    1. The first is the duplicate check. This is a standard report in the database. If you are using imports, DIY forms, or have multiple users entering data, this report is critical to maintain unduplicated constituents in your database.
    2. The second is a transaction detail report. A transaction detail report uses a query of all transactions created last month and uses a report that displays all fields related to the transaction data object. You can then look for inconsistencies, blanks, or inaccuracies in the detail report.
    3. The third is a constituent detail report. Similar to the transaction detail report, the constituent detail report uses a query of all constituents created last month and uses a report that displays all fields related to the constituent data object. The goal with the constituent detail report is the same as the transaction detail report. Look for inconsistencies, blanks, and inaccuracies.

The Bottom Line

These best practices should make your work easier, less time consuming, more streamlined and make your eTapestry database more valuable. These best practices can be implemented immediately so your organization gets the most out of eTapestry software.

Like any other software, eTapestry is just a tool. Building capacity in that tool, learning new tips, tricks, and best practices and building your understanding of the tool will help you maximize eTapestry. Building capacity in eTapestry should also translate into productivity gains and tangible fundraising results for your organization.

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