How to build a database of people

As churches choose to use BVCMS as their church management system, I’ll be doing a lot of conversions of data from existing systems. That’s a no brainer and is actually pretty straight forward. But I was talking with an administrator recently who indicated he does not trust any of his current data and wants to start from scratch. That would certainly make sense if you don’t have quality data.

It takes a lot of time for one or two or even three people to enter in a 1,000 names and addresses. And there’s going to be a lot of error in the process too. I remember years ago, we used to do double data entry in which every record was entered twice. Then the ones you correct are the ones that were different. Wow solve the quality problem with double the work! And even that would not result in a perfect database.

This week, I’ve been working on a “starter” database for BVCMS. And I’ve been thinking about how to get started from scratch entering people information. One phenomenon we’ve seen recently with Facebook is that people will delightedly build your database for you. And they’ll give you all sorts of good information about themselves. Think about it, all of the contact information, pictures, hobbies, interests, employment information in Facebook was entered by the very people of whom the information is about! And they keep it updated for you. And it is high quality. People don’t put their own address in wrong.

So, here’s the idea. I’ll build a registration-like page where somebody can enter their information about themselves. When they hit submit, I’ll check the current database to see if appears to be a match with an existing person. If not, a new record gets created, an email gets sent to an admin, the record is flagged as pending, the admin then vets the information, then either approves or rejects. If the person appears to already exist in the database, the data is proposed as an “update”, sent to an admin, the admin approves the update (or investigates further), clicks a button, and  a correction is made to the phone number, email or address.

And here’s the scenario for doing this in your church. Pastor announces a church wide project for building a database. He gives the URL for the registration page. And your own membership (at least the ones on the Internet) build your database for you! For those that are left who won’t or can’t enter the information about themselves, you enlist volunteers to collect the information via phone calls and enter it for them.

This idea is spawning all sorts of other ideas too.later.

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