January 2, 2006 version

Free Help With Databases & Software
          Note: this web page content is no longer updated.        

NOTE: the page you are reading now gets hundreds of hits a week, and I am stunned at how high it always comes up on search engines when I'm looking for database information myself on the web. But I'm sad to say that most of the excellent free online resources I found in the late 1990s to help people with a variety of over-the-counter database products are GONE, even from www.archive.org.

PLEASE, if possible, share database entry screens and structures you create, document what shortcuts and features are most valuable to you, and post all this to your web site or to user groups or TELL ME ABOUT IT. I understand that some people make their living developing databases, and some organizations use the sale of databases developed by their staff to generate additional income. But as far as it won't cut into your income, if you are a nonprofit staff member or volunteer, please share your knowledge about whatever database you are using. There are so many organizations in desperate need of this information, and they will not have access to it otherwise. Plus, most technical manuals just don't address the needs of nonprofit organizations.

I have a particular plea to those who develop databases for nonprofits using FileMaker Pro (check the aforementioned link for more information).

Once upon a time, in addition to tutorials and printed support material that came with database software package, some companies provided free online bulletin boards, Web sites or automated fax libraries where users could get more specific or updated answers for database questions. Sometimes agencies would share their database templates via their Web sites for others to use and adapt as needed.

Those days are almost entirely gone.

Free resources relating to databases for nonprofit organizations are few and far between (unlike back in the late 1990s, when this page was originally published). Here are the remaining few:

Unfortunately, as far as I can tell, FileMaker no longer provides a free space for developers to freely-share their FileMaker templates. And I've never been able to find such for Lotus Approach nor MS Access. What a shame.

TechSoup provides free articles and discussion groups that relate to database software and use by nonprofit organizations. However, most of the resources relate to specialized software, rather than freely-available templates.

The Nonprofit Matrix is an online guide to Application Service Providers (ASPs) and Portal providers in the nonprofit sector. ASPs offer outsourced services that can enhance your organization's web presence with a minimum of programming and administrative effort. These include web sites and web "portals" that provide online databases of volunteering opportunities that the nonprofit agency controls, online donation accounts, and affinity shopping accounts.

There are also Internet discussion groups centered around discussing the use of particular types of database packages. Participants in the groups are software users just like you, although many are often advanced users. It's a good idea to FIRST find out if the group has an FAQ (frequently asked questions and their answers); if you don't see information on the FAQ, ask! To find such groups, visit your favorite online search engine, such as Google.

These Coyote Communications database and software-related tip sheets may also help you:

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