How do I choose a database?

Databases are commonly used for managing contacts, monitoring or fundraising. Some organisations have the expertise to develop their own database, but most buy a package off the shelf or ask a developer to build something to suit their needs.

The starting point is to be very clear about your requirements.

  • What information do you want to collect?
  • Where will it come from and who will enter it?
  • What reports do you want to produce?

Work with staff and volunteers to agree a brief and identify priorities.

Be prepared to invest your time, effort and money to get what you want.

Review the market, ask similar organisations to yours and always try before you buy.

Work closely with your suppliers and make sure senior managers sign off key decisions about resources being committed.

Involve the people who will use the database, invest in training and project management and always work in clear stages.

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Suggestions, comments and questions

  1. Ross Markham

    a good open source (free) database that I would recommend would be MySQL available at:

    one of the most widley used databases there is therefore has plenty of documentation and troubleshooting all over the internet

    can be a bit daunting at first and take a while to set up & use
    but I would definatly reccomend it for people with tight/no budget who are able to put the effort in

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