What’s wrong with Excel for tracking donations?

Some non-profits use Excel to keep a list of donors and their donations. Some clinics use Excel to keep a list of patients and operations. Small businesses may use Excel to track customers and orders, or customers and services rendered.

This works okay (it’s WAY better than not using the computer at all), but may lead to some problems. Excel is spreadsheet software not database software, and it does not have a good facility for working with related sets of data.

For example, the non-profit that uses Excel to store donors and donations will eventually run into the situation where one donor gives a second or third donation. Where do you store this new donation? In a new row? In a new column? Suddenly your mail merges start to go haywire. You have 2 or 3 letters printing out for the same person. When you go to update a donor’s address, you update it in one row but not in another. Now you’re bombarding your donors with mail, some to current addresses, some to old addresses. Donors hate that!

The answer is to use a relational database like Microsoft Access. A relational system allows you to use separate tables for separate data entities, and then tie those tables together. The end result is an efficient system that contains better data and is easier to use.