by Carla Ruschival
Each year, as March 15 rolls around, you hear groans from all across the country. Affiliates large and small, state and special-interest, are checking their records, comparing members' addresses to those appearing on their list from ACB, adding and deleting names. By March 15, each affiliate submits to Sharon Lovering their current membership list, along with dues owed for members on that list.
But that is far from the end of the process. It is, rather, only the beginning for Sharon and the national office. As lists come in, whether on paper or electronically, the information must be hand-checked with data in the ACB database, corrections made, and new information entered by hand. It is a gargantuan job, and one that takes several months to complete. And it must be completed as quickly as possible, because the credentials committee needs that data before the annual conference and convention in July.
This entire process is called certification; it is required by the ACB Constitution, it is a great way to keep our records current and accurate, and it is tedious and time-consuming with a capital "T." Until now.
Last spring, almost a year ago, at the urging of ACB's director of development, the board of directors made an investment in ACB's infrastructure and purchased a software package called Donor Perfect. Up to that time, ACB had maintained several databases with sometimes duplicate and conflicting information on "ACB Braille Forum" readers, convention registration, people requesting specific types of information, donors etc. There was no good way to compare information across databases, and so, as the old saying goes, "The right hand didn't know what the left hand was doing."
Donor Perfect came on-line last September, and ACB's thousands and thousands of records were merged into one database, accessible by both our Arlington and Minneapolis offices. By that time, we were pleased to confirm that our initial hope was in fact possible: Donor Perfect was fully capable of handling membership certification, Forum mailings, convention mailings, etc.
Affiliates have for many years been asking for on-line certification. Since 2006, ACB has been attempting to create an on-line system that would allow this to happen. While some progress was indeed made, the system was not complete, and after all that time and expense there still were gaps in the software. For example, there was no way for to generate reports, so member data entered could not be retrieved for use by the credentials committee, for mailings, etc.
At its September meeting in Columbus, the board voted to contract for the creation of a simple, accessible software interface that would allow our affiliates to certify their members directly into the Donor Perfect system. This new software would also give each affiliate its own secure "contacts" area, separate from all other affiliates and from ACB, where it could organize information on prospective members, contributors, or anything it wished. The board stipulated that this new system needed to be complete and ready for use for the 2013 certification process.
These goals have been met. Our new member certification software and affiliate contact system is in fact up and running. The system has been tested by a team of individuals using a variety of adaptive software (speech, screen magnification, braille notetakers), and I was pleased to be part of that team. More than 40 affiliates have indicated an interest in being trained on this database, and as of this writing (in late January) that training is being scheduled; it will take place by phone, in small groups of two or three, and trainers will be familiar with the adaptive software used by the participants. Even better, some affiliates are also planning to make extensive use of the contacts to help them with their local, state and special-interest work.
Your affiliate can get in on the fun. It's free; it's quick and easy to use. For more information, contact Sharon Lovering in the Arlington office at 1-800-424-8666 or (202) 467-5081.
Finally, I will be using the database to certify several affiliates. If you would like to learn more about my personal experience with the system, and how I plan to use it for specific tasks in addition to certification, feel free to give me a call at (502) 897-1472.
This is a great time to be a part of ACB.