Annual eTapestry Database Review: Why and How to Do One

A lot can happen in a year: you may implement new development initiatives, abandon old fundraising strategies, set new goals, and experience staff transitions or role changes.

As your organization evolves, it is important for your Blackbaud® eTapestry® database to evolve too. The best way to keep your eTapestry database current as your organization evolves is to complete an annual database review.

An eTapestry database review gives you and your team an opportunity to step back, lift your heads from the daily grind of data entry and database management, and look at eTapestry from a global perspective.

Complete an annual database review to:

  • Identify updates that will keep eTapestry effective
  • Evaluate weaknesses and inefficiencies in existing processes
  • Assess parallel systems and whether they can be consolidated or integrated
  • Estimate next year’s spending on eTapestry (license, training, and updates)

For the best results, complete an annual database review with an open mind. Keep biases about cost, effort to implement, and any other barriers out of the discussion. Uncover the truth about your eTapestry database and then evaluate whether the solutions you’ve identified are practical.

Here are a few high-level questions to ask during an annual database review.

  • 1. What systems will be required to ensure the success of our upcoming fundraising strategies?

    Do we have new goals or strategies this year that will require different systems to support them?  For example, if you plan to grow online giving, do you need special online forms, email marketing systems and automation, and possibly a peer-to-peer or campaign giving system?

    Outline the features you will need and what it will take to set up eTapestry or other systems to meet your goals. Your eTapestry system is packed with features, so start by evaluating eTapestry’s capabilities before looking to external, third party tools.


  • 2. What are the top three to five eTapestry tasks that take the most time?

    Of all the questions you should ask on an annual basis, this may be the most important. What areas of eTapestry require the most time, cause the most stress, or keep you from more important fundraising and development tasks? Your response to this question will offer a prioritized list of improvements that if addressed will make the biggest impact on your organization.

  • 3. What reports are we missing?

    Fundraising is an analytical discipline as much as it is a relationship and engagement practice. Data can help you to identify valuable donor prospects, uncover untapped fundraising potential, and pinpoint the most effective strategies for fund development.

    Something is wrong if you spend hours of time generating reports or if you can’t get the reports you need at all. If queries and reports aren’t strengths for you now, this is an area to address during your annual database review. Cutting hours of time on reporting could mean getting weeks (yes, weeks!) of time back in the coming year.

  • 4. What are our primary data quality and data accuracy concerns?

    Are you spending hours cleaning up reports once you’ve exported them from eTapestry? Is the data in your database messy or inaccurate? If yes, you may need to invest in cleaning up your historical data and ensuring any new data doesn’t contribute to bad data quality.

    Staff turnover, inconsistent procedures, lack of training, faulty imports, and a variety of other causes contribute to poor data quality. Data quality challenges should not go unaddressed because the longer they persist the more pervasive they become in your system.

    At Sidekick Solutions, we complete annual cleanups of our data systems. We encourage you to do the same.

  • 5. What data do we currently track in spreadsheets that could be tracked in eTapestry?

    Prospects? Volunteers? Planned gifts? Grants? Events? That data can be tracked in eTapestry.

    Most data sets can be tracked in eTapestry. If you rely on spreadsheets to track the functions listed above, take a look at tracking them in eTapestry. At a minimum, identify the systems you use outside of eTapestry and assess whether they are a positive or negative for you.

  • 6. What other systems do we use that could be integrated with eTapestry?

    Software is getting easier to use and more capable. This includes eTapestry. Automation can save time and streamline daily tasks. Sometimes automation requires integration (the “auto-magical” kind) and sometimes it requires design of simple “people-based” systems (like imports and exports). In either case, the goal of automation is to cut wasteful steps and streamline burdensome processes.

    It isn’t normal or expected for you to struggle needlessly with eTapestry or any of your software tools. Automation, integration, and system simplification are all features of a well-oiled eTapestry database.

Evolving your eTapestry database

Your eTapestry software system is a dynamic tool and should evolve with your organization, but eTapestry must be a priority. An annual database review may seem like it will take time that you don’t have, but a review doesn’t need to be an overly involved process. If you’re crunched on time and want to make eTapestry a priority, start by asking some simple questions like those outlined in this post. A little bit of thought spent on how eTapestry fits in your organization will go a long way toward sustaining it long term.

Looking for an assessment template? Check out our eTapestry self-assessment guide and worksheet. It has everything you’ll need to review eTapestry and define an action plan for next steps. Click here to get your free copy.

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