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.
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
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.
All departments needing access to alumni information should contact
Advancement Services, by campus mail.
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.
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
- 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
University Advancement will identify and develop appropriate formats
for lists and reports to meet the needs of the various divisions and
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
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
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
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.
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
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.