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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2014

    Question Nonprofit database project and responsibility for the project's future (questions)

    I'm going to be doing a database project for a nonprofit or similar organization (have not chosen the organization yet) as the capstone class to my CIS degree. I've done some database design, so I'm not asking about that.

    Here's the description of the project assignment from the syllabus:

    IS 495 is designed to give senior-year students an opportunity to develop and manage an information systems project. Ideally, students shall draw upon their Computer Information Systems Program coursework to complete the project. Students should use their personal network of contacts to find a real-world project in the public or private sector; students shall complete these projects with little supervision from me.

    Project management by each student is an integral part of the course experience. A project proposal that includes scope, milestones, and deliverables is developed at the beginning of the course. Progress reports and a final oral and written presentation will complete the capstone course experience. Projects should focus on one aspect of Computer Information Systems such as systems analysis and design, database management, telecommunications, electronic commerce, security, project management, expert systems, or management of information systems. Students are evaluated by their project deliverables.

    My questions:

    1. How much should I be concerned with the hardware and support environment that the organization has available? I'm going to design the database, work out processes to get the data in the database, put in all the data that exists now, create the reports and make the data useable for what they need to do, and show them how to put more data in and get information out, but what happens after I'm gone?

    These organizations likely won't have a database admin on staff; that's why they can benefit from a student coming in to design a database for them. Depending on the size of the data, I can implement this as an access db, or something like mysql if the data now and in the future is large enough to require it (even though I have not used mysql yet), but how concerned should I be with what happens after I leave? It might be an Access db on one person's machine, and I can teach that person how to use the db, but I can't be there to help out if there is a problem a year later. If the solution is more complex, the need for help may be even greater.

    I guess they will hopefully have an all-around IT person; is that the answer? It becomes the all-around IT person's responsibility?

    2. Does creating a new database from scratch, with a design that may be totally unique (but hopefully conforms to design best practices) hurt an organization in any way? Does it become a liability in the future, say 5 years down the road, when they may want to change their system? I don't want to create a system that becomes a non-extensible trap. Is the use of a data model template a good idea?

    3. I searched for "nonprofit" on this forum to see if others had posted on this topic, and I found this thread, in which is mentioned DonorPerfect.

    Does it make sense for a nonprofit to have me do a project like this when there are inexpensive products like that in existence, which also offer support? I will probably not do a project creating a donor database, but I would guess there are similar products that cover almost anything else that any nonprofit might want to do.

    4. I may also need advice on determining what is an appropriate project for me to do. The syllabus says it's supposed to be 80-90 hours of work total. I don't mind doubling that or more, but I don't want to overestimate or misrepresent what I can do when I'm talking to these organizations. Should I be looking for smaller-scale projects, finding individuals or very small organizations who need a personal database/information system but have no money to pay for it?

    Thank you for any advice you can give.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    In front of the computer
    First of all, I think that a real world capstone project for a non-profit is a fabulous concept. It forces the student to deal with some of the issues that are often glossed over in academia in order to pack more course content into each semester.

    Unless the data is sensitive (like HIPPA or SOX data) with compliance issues, I'd investigate one of the online hosting sites. This means that the hardware will be run in some type of data center and there will be some relatively competent IT staff watching over the basic needs for the non-profit.

    I would strongly encourage you to investigate one of the CMS packages like Drupal, XOOPS, or Joomla. These allow you to build a web site, establish security, and "get the ball rolling" using a package that is likely to be supportable for the next few years (or possibly decades). This will also get you acquainted with the tools that could become "bread and butter" for the foreseeable future.

    If you review the capstone outline, you ought to use your own personal contacts to find an appropriate non-profit. You'll do a LOT better if the non-profit is local (especially if it is on campus).

    I wouldn't get too excited about the 80-90 hour total... Most non-profits have dozens or even hundreds of projects that are appropriate in scale. Pick a project that means something to you, it will make the time irrelevant and the investment that much more satisfying.

    In theory, theory and practice are identical. In practice, theory and practice are unrelated.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    I think that you should find a subject close to where you intend to live/work after you graduate.
    You should give the non-profit all the source code and documentation, your email address and your phone number. You should tell them that you will support the application in perpetuity.
    Why. The people running the non profit may also be volunteers. Every one of them that you meet is a potential client or employer.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2003
    I've participated in several "Give Camps". | Coding for Charity
    Always used MS Access, because charities rarely have any dbas on staff to manage a true database server such as MySQL or SQL Server.
    If it's not practically useful, then it's practically useless.

    blindman "sqlblindman"

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2014
    Thanks for the input, guys. I'm still figuring this out, but I'll let you know what I wind up doing. I had the thought to check out Odesk and found some projects to get in the swing of things, so that's what I've been doing for the last few days.

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