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Plan For The Future: Utilizing The User Manual


Many organizations have one or two users that know their database in and out; they know how the big events and campaign drives are tracked, how to record certain types of constituents (ex: volunteers), and can pull a mailing list at the drop of a hat. Sounds like a great problem to have, right?


Having an expert on board is never a bad thing. However, one of the biggest pitfalls organizations regularly fall into is to not have their eTap experts document any of their standard procedures, which can lead to massive headaches down the road. I have seen some databases where this has come back to bite the organization, sometimes years later. The conversation will often go like this:

User: We need to pull a list of folks who have attended our Gala event in the last 5 years. We have an invitation that needs to go out ASAP!
Me (Support): Sure thing, how has that been tracked in your database? Do you have a Fund, Campaign, or Approach that is used?
User: To be honest, I'm not really sure. We've had a number of people maintaining the database over the years and they've all done something slightly different.

*Cue deflated sound effect*
Once this point is reached, it can take a lot of effort for the organization to dig through all of the data from past years to determine how it was entered and how to report on it.  In the worst cases, it may not be possible to pull exactly the report they are looking for. Sometimes it will look like there was no rhyme or reason for any of it, with different fields having been used by a variety of users. If the organization needs the information for a mailing list that they need to go out ASAP, it can quickly devolve into a hair-pulling exercise.
This situation can easily be avoided by taking some time now to hammer out which data entry procedures need to be followed to ensure the organization can access the information easily for the forseeable future, no matter who is in charge. Once the procedures are ironed out, they can be uploaded into the User Manual section of eTapestry, one of the most useful but least utilized features in the database.

What is the User Manual?


The User Manual is a storage area in your database that allows you to upload documents (Word, PDF, etc...) that can be accessed by any other user. It is a great place to upload standard procedures you want to make sure all of your users in eTapestry follow.


When the organization's main eTapestry user inevitably leaves, the individual that replaces them will have those procedures as a resource. Even if they aren't totally comfortable or familiar with eTapestry, it will ensure that the data they enter will match what was entered in the past, so it can be easily managed and reported on. It’s ok if that person doesn’t know right away how to pull queries, reports, etc…, but as long as they are entering the data in a consistent fashion to how it was entered previously, it ensures the integrity of the organization’s data.

Some examples of procedures that should be documented in the User Manual:

  • Data entry procedures for different types of giving, such as regular events the organization holds, annual fund giving, etc…
  • Procedures for entering a new account into eTapestry, including information about any custom fields that need to be marked and how to fill those out.
  • What type of accounts does the organization track in eTapestry? Are volunteers in the database? If so, how are those tracked?
  • Steps for generating year end receipts, such as the queries and templates used. Documenting these types of practices helps ensure your organization will continue to run like a well-oiled machine, regardless of who is in charge.
  • Database maintenance procedures. If you run something like the Duplicate Report regularly, or perform other types of regular clean up, documenting these will help the next person that comes along maintain the database.

Click here for steps on uploading a User Manual to eTapestry.

So how about it, how does your organization use the User Manual? Any examples are welcome in the comment section below!

Posted by Joe Boyle on Jun 29, 2017 1:13 PM America/New_York