Your work is vital. We are raising funds to support it.
We are a new non-profit helping high performing low income students get to and through college. As such, we have a lot to track and are currently using excel. We need a database with tables for Student basic information (name address phone etc), student mentor relationships, student grades, monthly activity attendance, etc. Ideally, a multi user database with a set of forms for inputting data, reporting on data, doing custom searches, etc. We have looked at all of the popular private school software, contact management software, case management software, etc. None are close as we need to track and relate students, mentors, grades, attendance at monthly events, and more. We also have many unique attributes to track for each student, each event. A cloud-based database that would allow security and multiple users would be ideal. Also needs to be simple as we are a start up with very limited staff and budget. Any suggestions?
I am not sure about the rules in the forum; I have a suggestion but it is a product I am connected with. I was not able to PM you, seems perhaps because the account is new (tells me no such uses as GenOne). You can email me at my forum email, email@example.com .
You can tell users about a product even if you are connected with it IF the product is a good answer to the user's question.
But if the user is asking about something specific like Quickbooks, then you should not be telling them about your accounting program if you are connected with it. Someone that is NOT connected with a product can mention it, but for the most part the reply should directly answer the user's question.
Thank you for being considerate of our forum rules in your message! We appreciate it very much!
Hi GenOne. Welcome to TechSoup!
I wish I had an easy answer for you. While there are many options for volunteer management, case management, school management, relationship management, etc. I can't think of one that would be appropriate for a startup with a limited budget and limited (if any) tech staff. Idealware has published guides to various types of systems (e.g., volunteer management, case management, CRM, and many others) that should help identify options and costs. They also published a report called CRM Integration for Nonprofits that might help, since there may not be a single system (that you can afford) that does everything you want.
MS Access is certainly an option, as are numerous other do-it-yourself database management systems. But I'm leery of this approach: it usually takes a lot more time, focus, planning, project control, tech support (and often money) than you can envision at the start. I wrote about this issue here. I'm also leery of "free" systems for the same reasons. See The True Costs of Free and Low-Cost Software and There Ain’t No Such Thing As a Free Software Package
Rather than plunging into a do-it-yourself or on-the-cheap project, you might be best off looking for capacity building grants or donations that will support the cost of acquiring or building your software (recognizing that there will probably be ongoing costs as well).
RobertForum Moderator Robert L. Weiner ConsultingStrategic Technology Advisors to Nonprofit and Educational Organizationsrobert [AT] rlweiner [DOT] comwww.rlweiner.com
I've been in the database environment for 30+ years, the last 15 of which in the Microsoft space. Do not get involved with Access unless all you want is single user and all sorts of frustration. If you want some simple CRM tools, you could look at Salesforce. They do offer some help for non-profits.
Just please don't consider Access anything other than a proof of concept or a toy.
Alan, I am puzzled by your comment about MS Access not being applicable for multiple users. To develop a multi-user database you have to set it up as a client server design. One central "data file" on a server and a user-interface file for each individual user. I have been developing custom applications with MS Access this way for over 20 years for organizations across the United States. MS Access is a very viable database development language if the user wants an application that runs on a Local Area Network and not in "the cloud".
Not much to be puzzled about, although Alan may have been a little imprecise. The issue is not multi-user. The issue is that MS Access is most definitely not a "very viable" database for any mission critical data. This is not database or client/server snobbery; I have developed database software in almost every known language and platform for almost 40 years.
If you doubt me, take Microsoft's word for it. They themselves stated at one point on their website that Access should never be used for mission critical data. It created quite a hullabaloo at MS from the Access people, as you can imagine. After about a week it came down with no comment ever from MS. (Access is/was a big seller.)
Access does not even come close to passing the ACID database standard. Even other legacy databases will have 3 out of 4 of the ACID components. Access is great for your home cooking database, but it borders on irresponsible to represent it as being appropriate for mission critical data. End users may open their MS suite and use Access, but professionals should know better. No cost savings, no real database requirements, and no reason to use it.
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