Trello for Fundraising Database Users

This blog is part of a series I plan to write on on free tools to help you manage your work.

I enjoy staying in touch with other Raiser’s Edge users via groups like those on LinkedIn and Facebook.

Recently, this question appeared:

facebook question about managing RE

“Can anyone recommend a system of keeping the rest of your staff updated as to the projects you’re working on?”

I liked this question. In both the “pressing the like button” sense as well as appreciating the sentiment. In various sizes of team, communication between fundraiser and database expert can break down. In larger teams, for instance because the person responsible for the database has so many users to support, and in smaller teams perhaps because that role has to be combined with many other competing demands. In any respect, managing competing demands is a challenge and the many comments on this post suggested a variety of solutions. I suggested Trello and this blog expands on “why.”

Trello is a “Freemium” web-based app with accompanying tablet and phone apps. Freemium means that it’s free for basic usage, and paid for greater use. However, compared to many other similar tools, the free version is pretty unlimited.

It’s a team task management tool which can you can great value from even by yourself. Other options exist – such as Google Kanban, Asana, as well as good ol’ Microsoft Outlook Tasks  - but as I use it at , it is easy to recommend.


But why even use a tool?

Users can be demanding, those demands can compete against each other, and indeed against your own demands. Users without in-depth knowledge of what it takes to create a change or report in a database find it hard to empathise when you can’t commit that you’ll get their query created for them in the next hour – especially when you’ve got to get today’s thank you letters out! I find that to counteract this, the database manager needs to be:

·      Organised – know where the right information is to undertake a project

·      Clear about the job – have done the right research and saved that information in a consistent place

·      Transparent – that is, communicative and clear about what difficulties there are

·      A ball juggler – aware that there are deadlines from many users around you

Designed to help with these problems, Trello is formed around a Kanban concept where every task is thought of being at a stage, and you shuffle tasks either up a list within that stage by priority or across by stage. In Kanban’s original form, you would post these tasks up on a board that your team can see:

Handrawn Kanban #1

I’d put any requests that users have into the Requests section, and periodically review some or all of those getting into the “Queued” section. I keep “Queued” ordered so that the task I’ll do next is at the top. This way everyone knows where their tasks sit in the priority.

And as you get tasks done, move them between sections:

Handrawn Kanban #2

What’s that?  Got a priority task come in? No worries – drop that to the top of your list. You reserve the right to move some tasks straight into “Queued” or even “Doing”.

Using post-its like this is fine in an office where anyone can see your board. With more and more remote working, or field work on events, that is less and less realistic. Add to that the reality that post-it stickiness goes over time, with your carefully placed post-its at risk of being found in a crumpled pile on the floor one most. So, a Trello board takes that post-it experience and boosts it by allowing you to add these to each note:

·      Assign someone to the task – so you can see a picture of who that task is for

·      Attach documents – so you can store all of your background notes, as well as the detail of requests from users such a link to those records that need merging.

·      Subscribe to email updates – so a user you’ve attached to a task can be automatically notified when you move it from “To Do” to “Doing”

·      Set deadlines and get reminders.

·      And multiple boards. This is important not only for those with limited wallspace, but also for those who might want to expand one task into multiples. For instance, working on a telethon campaign might involve tens of tasks, all of which might be best understood on one board.

Here’s what that post-it board looks like in Trello:

Trello Screenshot for Fundraising Database Management

Note that I’ve added a step called User Review. This allows users to review what you’ve done and to potentially request changes. If so, that card gets dragged back to Requests, To Do or Doing depending on how you prioritise it.

I’ve described here how a tool like a Trello board can be used to aid managing the database, but it also can be used to manage tasks around the team – be it a board for organising an event or a board for managing the work required for a newsletter. And if you are into that kind of thing, you can tag your Trello cards with colours to categorise them.

I like that similarly to some CRM systems, you can login to Trello using your Google login – reducing that password-overload problem so many of us have!

So, that’s my example of using one tool to manage your workload. How do you keep your staff up to date on the status of projects you’re working on?