A place for expanded conversation on topics of interest to Friendship Force International clubs and members

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Database and Website Upgrade

Several club members and leaders have made inquiries into the background of the database and website replacement project that was announced during the Vancouver World Conference as the target of the "I'm In!" fundraising campaign. I thought it might be helpful to revisit and share some of the more frequent questions I've received to help clarify this topic for everyone.

What is wrong with our current database?
The current system (built over 20 years ago) is out-of-date and no longer compatible with current technology platforms. As a result, the system continuously experiences crashes and it is only a matter of time before the system fails indefinitely. The current database, called FELIX, is the information backbone for all of our exchange management and is essential for Friendship Force International (FFI) operations.

What is in place now, and what do we need to update or replace the hardware and software?

FELIX is hosted “in the cloud” by a company in Nebraska. We currently contract with them to perform the essential task of keeping the aging database up and running. For this reason, the only hardware required is a computer terminal with internet access.

The website is a slightly different story. It is hosted by the same company in Nebraska but maintained by a freelance web designer originally contracted by Friendship Force several years ago. The only interface between the website and the database is a portal that allows users to access the exchange catalog.

The future iteration of these functions, outlined in our RFP and reflected in the vendor proposal, is to bring all these systems in line with current technology. The future website will not be a stand-alone function as it is now but integrated on many levels with the new database. This is not only more efficient but will create a much more intuitive and practical user experience for members. The future database and website will reside in “the cloud” limiting our hardware requirement for it to function.

Where are we today with the project?
In September 2015, Friendship Force sent RFP's (request for proposals) to ten reputable companies in the field. The proposals received were reviewed by a contingent of staff and board, with help from experts in the field. With the board approval in December 2015, Friendship Force moved forward on January 1st with our selected vendor for the project, Agency CADRE.

What resources will be needed to professionally support the database and website after completion?
Our contracted vendor will continue to provide support to both the website and database after the launch.

What is the cost breakdown for the various components of the new system?  For some of us, $40,000 seems low for a system that achieves the goals you’ve set forth. Is this number for the entire project or for one of the phases of the total project?
As the website and database are integrated, there is no a-la-carte cost break-down for the project. It is one project. You are absolutely correct that $40,000 will not cover half the project. The fundraising amount was set by the board as an achievable goal to strive for when soliciting member support for the project.

Most of the proposals Friendship Force received were between $85,000 and $105,000, with one as high as $300,000. The proposal and company we ultimately selected was in the middle of the pack, at $98,000.

As we have shared previously, funds raised for the "I'm In!" campaign exceeded the $40,000 goal which is both a testament to the generosity of the Friendship Force family as well as a relief when considering the price-tag of the project.

Who, in our FFI organization, will be responsible for co-ordination and execution of the project?
Ana Smulski, Director of Research and Project Development, has been leading the project internally and will continue to lead the coordination and logistics of the project through development until it goes live. Agency CADRE has a very experienced team that will be working side-by-side with us. We are also fortunate to have Ed Ekis, who serves on the FFI Board of Directors, as well as myself who both have experience with these kinds of roll-outs.

How can our members be assured that the moneys that are contributed go directly to the IT upgrade project and not into the general funds?
Money dedicated to the database and website project is tracked separately from our general funds and the other Legacy Fund initiatives. Every dollar given to the website/database project is restricted for that use.

Has FFI considered the potential of crowd-sourcing sites such as GoFundMe or KickStarter?
Yes, actually. Because fund development is a focus for me and the board in 2016 I have spent some time wading through notes and ideas passed down to me in this area. There was conversation at one point about using GoFundMe for some of our fundraising initiatives. I’m not sure if it was ever actually used or successful but I agree that these are worth exploring more. I have already informed the board of my desire to create a Fund Development Committee that will consist of board members, club members and external experts. This will be the place where this idea would be explored further.

How do individuals who contribute qualify for a tax deduction?
By law and by practice, FFI should be sending thank you acknowledgement letters to everyone who gives to this campaign or any other Friendship Force fundraising effort. All money given to any non-profit like FFI is tax deductible.

1 comment:

  1. This is the kind of information many of our members want....and deserve. Your blog seems to open the door for a new Era of transparency in FFI. Thanks