From its start YOBC was a volunteer-run organization that operated strictly on its tuition-based budget. When the founder retired in 2006 the new Board president made it a priority to professionalize the group to ensure its continuity. We hired a full-time executive director and part time office and development staff. Membership growth and expanded programming required new development and fundraising efforts. Our five-year strategic plan identified as a planning priority developing an IT strategy to serve the overall needs of the organization. Our website and existing database were all maintained by volunteers.
YOBC is sponsored by Bucks County Community College which provides rehearsal space, but no office space, so we are run from the home offices of our staff and volunteers. Membership records were complete and up-to-date, however the database we were using was not internet-based and had become obsolete. For several years we explored and tested various solutions that were either too limited or too costly. None of the solutions interacted with our Joomla-based website...or with each other.
The specific requirements of our organization were difficult to customize in many of the products we tried. We need to track somewhat unique data for our students: school district and school music programs, instruments played, private music teachers, ensembles they participate in, and parent volunteer commitments, among others. This does not even delve into the fundraising and development aspects which we are still exploring. Things reached a critical point when data ended up stored in multiple systems: one for general membership information; one for bulk emails, one for attendance, one for emergency phone calls.... If a student moved mid-year from one ensemble to another, there were eight places where we needed to update their record -- not to mention the individual spreadsheets our various volunteers may have had on hand.
Last summer we began using CiviCRM to provide the overall IT base for the youth orchestra. We have only begun to exploit all of its possibilities but are pleased with the results so far. Working with BackOffice Thinking we customized our data fields and imported current membership data and have been working with the database throughout the first half of our 23rd season. To date, we have used it to track overall and individual ensemble memberships and create rosters and directories, to track parent volunteer commitments, and to register participation in various events--field trips, benefits, and our 2014 International Tour. We have also used it to track contributions in the form of event fees (concert CD/DVD purchases and tickets) and program ads.
This spring we are looking forward to incorporating CiviCRM into our auditions process: from registration through the audition results, conversion to membership status, tuition payments, and incorporation into our ensembles. We also plan to use it for our annual campaign both in preparing the mailing and tracking contributions. We are still cleaning alumni data, but foresee CiviCRM as a valuable tool for helping to develop an alumni association for future events and development efforts. As we approach YOBC's 25th anniversary we hope to be able to update many of our old records. At some point we may consider incorporating weekly attendance records into our database.
CivCRM provides a versatile and highly robust program that suits the specialized needs of our nonprofit youth orchestra. The more we learn about how to use the program, the more ideas we have about how we can make it work for YOBC. We have benefited from the expert advice of the people at Back Office Thinking who have taken the time to appreciate our specific needs and requirements and to help us work out solutions. We look forward to continuing to refine and perfect our database and to making it available to benefit more of our volunteers and staff. It has helped satisfy our strategic planning goal and create a strong piece of foundational infrastructure for YOBC's continued growth.