Published on April 19th, 2013 | by Katherine Schouten

Database Decisions for the Nano-Nonprofit: Part 2

Last month we began a conversation on database options for the nano-nonprofit, characterized here as the smallest of artistic enterprises, often in the early years of operation, with annual budgets under $60,000, and/or having a paid staff of 5 persons or fewer (if not entirely volunteer-run). When considering data solutions that will allow these lean organizations to capture the nuances of their patron relationships by integrating multiple points of contact (attendance, donations, communications, and personal info), top considerations that emerge are price, ease of use, customer support, and email compatibility.

Today we consider our first option, Artful.ly, from Fractured Atlas. Self-described as “a simple, elegant way to keep track of events, people, and your everyday work,” this online system is designed to facilitate and manage ticket sales, track contributions (cash and in-kind), and store personal contact information for each individual with whom your organization interacts. Its ticket-selling and fundraising functions work on an organization’s existing website, creating a streamlined interface for the user rather than navigating away from the organization’s site in order to complete the transaction. And Artful.ly’s recent integration with MailChimp allows individual email addresses and communication history to now be stored in the same patron record alongside sales, donations, and personal information.

For the nano-nonprofit, the chief attraction of Artful.ly is likely to be its price. Structured as six modules (“kits”),  Artful.ly is free to install, and three kits—People Management, Free Event Ticketing, and MailChimp Integration—bear no cost to use. The remaining kits—Paid Event Ticketing, Charity Donations, and Sponsored Projects (for organizations that receive fiscal support from Fractured Atlas)—incur processing fees for each transaction. The customer is charged a $2 handling fee per ticket, and Artful.ly deducts a 3.5% credit card processing fee from the base amount of each sale. So for a paid event with a ticket price of $10, the customer pays $12, Artful.ly receives $2, the credit card company receives $0.35, and the organization receives $9.65.

In addition to being cost-friendly, the nano-nonprofit will likely appreciate the accessibility of this online solution. Situated in the cloud, multiple users can link to the organization’s account, which can be accessed from any online device. For the small or beginning enterprise without a permanent physical office or still in the process of obtaining personnel, this flexibility translates into critical ease of use. Similarly, while a short piece of code is provided by Artful.ly to install its sales and donation widget onto an organization’s website, nano-nonprofits without a unique website can utilize those features by directing patrons to a hosted online storefront.

The caveat for nano-nonprofits considering Artful.ly is the system’s relative newness. Launched in September 2011, Artful.ly is still in beta mode, and while the status of requested fixes and features is updated regularly, limitations exist. An example: Data can be easily imported as CSV from existing systems, and Artful.ly will automatically match records by email address to merge duplicate patrons. However, the user is left to manually merge any other duplications that exist and because patron records cannot be sorted alphabetically, visually scanning for potential duplicates is a challenge.

The good news is that Artful.ly incorporates substantial arts industry feedback into its design and is extremely prompt in responding to customer inquiries. When we inquired about the inability to delete actions entered in an individual record (eliminating the option to correct data entry mistakes), we received thorough and thoughtful replies, suggesting that nano-nonprofits requiring technical support will find ample assistance.

Finally, potential users should know that Artful.ly is in the culminating phase of a significant redesign of its People Management module, which will address several existing limitations as well as add the ability to include social media handles, lifetime value, and prioritized actions to individual patron records. In the meantime, a “dummy” account may be a useful way for nano-nonprofits to experiment with Artful.ly to determine if this inexpensive, online system is a good fit for its organizational needs.

Coming up next: Patron Manager

 

 

 

 

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About the Author

Katherine Schouten

Katherine Schouten is a first-year Master of Arts Management student at Carnegie Mellon University. She has a B.A. in cultural anthropology from Saint Olaf College, where she also performed on oboe and English horn with the Saint Olaf Orchestra. An experienced researcher and published writer, she explores audience engagement from an interdisciplinary perspective, including the intersections of artistic programming, education, and data analysis encompassed by the subject.



  • http://xeric-front-yard.tumblr.com/ Tim Thomas

    BuyPlayTix(www.buyplaytix.com) caters exclusively to theater organizations in this market. Also with MailChimp (+Constant Contact, YMLP, etc) integration and free paid and unpaid reservations. You can keep a pretty detailed patron database in the application and export it for printing mailing labels or exporting for MailChimp email messages.

  • Mangesh Hoskote

    Any suggestions for archival management for small non-profits?

  • http://www.technologyinthearts.org Technology in the Arts

    We will be continuing this research into other specific database solutions. Are you interested in archiving or cataloging?Are there specific software programs you would like to see reviewed and analyzed?

  • Treybo

    When is the next edition on Patron Manager going to come out? This subject is very timely for us.

  • Treybo

    Curious when the follow up article on Patron Manager will be published?

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