About  |  Contact Us  |  Register for Benefits  |  Login  |  View/Edit Your Profile  |  Consulting  |  Principal & Founder  |  Sponsorships  |  Legal & Privacy

  Home      Blog      Job Board      Community      Contribute      Vendor Listings      Search Site
  Employment  |  More With Less  |  Potpourri  |  Records  |  Reporting  |  Research  |  Revenue  |  Samples  | Systems  |  Web Sightings
  Shadow databases. Records
Shadow Databases Home | Where do they come from? | Resolution | Being Vigilant
Shadow DatabasesResolution

One of the first steps in the resolution of shadow databases is to define what a shadow database might be for an institution.

For example, a legally independent entity within your institution might have their own database, but there may be legal or other requirements that would preclude the integration of the database or systems with your own. In this case, a data sharing agreement may be more applicable than to eliminate or merge the shadow database.

Institutional Policy

There should be an institutional policy that defines the alumni/donor/prospect database of record for the institution and that also makes reference to the creation and use of shadow databases.

The following is a good example of such a policy from Ohio University.

The purpose of this policy is to ensure that consistent, accurate information about alumni is readily available to all appropriate constituencies within the University in a timely fashion. Our alumni should not have to provide the University with information more than one time, and their requests for restrictions on use of the information must be respected.


Advancement Services, in the Division of University Advancement, will maintain a centralized database of official alumni records. Advancement Services will ensure that disaster-recovery plans are in place, including routinely storing a backup copy of the centralized database files in a non-adjacent building.

Advancement Services will assist units and departments by providing convenient, timely retrieval of information, including on-line access and the generation of mailing lists and labels, as needed.

Colleges, units, and departments are not to maintain separate, "shadow" databases of biographical and gift data on Ohio University alumni, in either electronic or hardcopy format. They may keep, and use internally, temporary working copies of information generated directly from the central database.


I. General

All departments needing access to alumni information should contact Advancement Services, by campus mail.

II. Data

Departments will work with Advancement Services to incorporate all alumni information that they receive into the central alumni records database. Departments will identify to Advancement Services the reports and data needed to support departmental activities.

III. Updates

Individual colleges, units, and departments should refer all alumni who desire to make their own address changes or biographical updates via the Web to the Alumni Relations Web site.

All other updates of information about alumni, including but not limited to, biographical updates, address changes, and employment information, that come to the attention of University employees should be promptly brought to Advancement Services' attention:

- Information from hardcopy notes is to be forwarded through campus mail.
- Information from E-mail and telephone messages is to be forwarded by E-mail to advancement services.

IV. Transition Process

This sub-section describes the transition process for departments that had been maintaining shadow databases prior to this policy first becoming effective. This sub-section will be removed in a future revision of this policy, after all the existing shadow databases have been permanently retired.

Departments will identify and share with University Advancement all shadow databases. University Advancement will work closely with departments to understand the purpose and use of the data so that a prioritization for conversion of the various databases may be established.

University Advancement will incorporate those lists in the alumni database.

University Advancement will identify and develop appropriate formats for lists and reports to meet the needs of the various divisions and departments.

The length of time necessary to complete this process will depend on the quality and size of the databases. University Advancement will provide a time estimate to each department. University Advancement expects that full implementation will take approximately 18 months.

Data Sharing Agreements

For those shadow databases where integration may not be appropriate, information sharing agreements can be entered into with the users of the data. This provides an obvious way to get updated and refreshed data.


Sample Data Sharing Agreement Language

The role of the central development office will be to co-ordinate and facilitate the successful cultivation and solicitation of donors. In order to facilitate this process, the following services will be available to the department when required:

System generated fundraising and statistical reports along with the training to run these reports.
Research services will be provided so profiles can be developed for prospects.

In return the department will provide updates on all records received by the department and forward these to the central office for entry into the central system.

The department also agrees to store all advancement information on the central system including all prospect tracking and prospect contacts.

Costs may be assigned from time to time as necessary in proportion to the charges assigned to other departments, but the departments will be consulted early in the process of determining these costs.

System Functionality

If the system functionality is limiting the organization then it may be an appropriate time to move to a new system. Part of any project plan for conversion or major upgrade should include references to specific shadow databases and the plan to integrate them into the new system.

Centralization of List Requests and Downloads

Shadow databases always need to start with something. If you centrally control all requests for lists and downloads and don't allow users to access database tables directly using conventional report writers and download tools, then it is much more difficult for users to get mass downloads that they could use to create shadow databases.

A statement of appropriate use can also be attached when reports or downloads are delivered to requestors.

Provision of Services

You can also provide additional services to users. For example, you can suggest that you do the data maintenance centrally for them so that they don't need to maintain their own set of data, assist them with conversions, or include their ideas for system enhancements in the current project plans.

Decentralized Data Maintenance and Updating

Some organizations may not have the central budget to do all of the required data entry and updating. In this case, the decentralization of data maintenance will preclude the creation of shadow databases since users are familiar with the system and will be in direct control of their data. With this type of model, you also have very good data control reports and data integrity monitoring in place to control the quality of the data being updated.

Sharing Statistics With Those In Charge

Sharing statistics with college or departmental heads can also help promote the central system. If you can demonstrate addressable rates by department for example, it becomes much easier to convince those in charge to ensure their data is updated and maintained on a central system.

Training, Orientation and Marketing

All training and orientation programs need to make reference to the central database and expand upon the merits and benefits of maintaining data in it. There should be follow up sessions after initial orientations, and checks to see who has logged into the system and actually used it.

  ↑  Top of Page  |  Samples Page  |  Sample Forms  |  Favorite Reports  |  Frequently Asked Questions  |  Glossary of Terms