Salvation Army West updates fund-raising software

The Salvation Army USA Western Territory is switching over to new fund-raising software that the charity hopes will help it centralize data scattered throughout its 13-state region.

Based in Long Beach, Calif., Salvation Army West is one of four such regional offices in the U.S. The Alexandria, Va.-based national organization raised US$1.5 billion in 2004.

But much of that money is never seen at Salvation Army headquarters. Instead, donations collected in each region are usually distributed locally, meaning each of the Salvation Army's four regional offices runs its own accounting and fundraising software and manages its own database of donors, according to Salvation Army West CIO Clarence White.

With a donor database that is equivalent to a business customer database, centralizing all of the Western Territory data has never been easy, White said. For the past decade, his 90-person IT group has supported fundraising software called Donor Central, which the Salvation Army West bought just as the vendor went out of business. Undeterred, White and his team kept customizing the software, which runs on a mix of SQL Server databases and serves 275 users.

But 2006 will be Donor Central's last year. "Donor Central is getting a bit long in the tooth," White said. The software is "very focused on direct mail, and we need to extend beyond that." It is also written in the Delphi language, White said, "and nobody has much Delphi experience anymore."

The bigger issue is with the donation data itself, which is siloed in vertical databases that track donations made through direct mail and the Internet, or when goods are collected by a Salvation Army truck.