Please help me know how much I'm worth!
January 9, 2013 9:58 AM   Subscribe

I need to know how much to charge a non-profit organization to set up and maintain a DB, having never done it before....and I need to give an amount before tonight! :-/

I have been volunteering for a very small non-profit (3 PT employees) in the Chicago suburbs. Recently the Director asked me to research and recommend a donor database, after which they decided to go with GiftWorks. She has been impressed with my work and has just told me that she would like to talk about hiring me as a consultant to be the person to install and maintain the database (they currently have about 700 records). While I'm comfortable with technology and have a little knowledge of how this database works, I've never actually used it myself or been the person who would be the lead person on this sort of thing.

She wants me to give her an estimate of how long this all would take and how much I would charge. (This would be as a consultant, so I would need to pay my own taxes, so I'd want to charge more than if I were an employee.)

I would need to learn the database as well as correctly format all the excel spreadsheets they have been using to track donors, volunteers, class participants, school contacts, etc. so that they will upload to the DB. (For example, I know that they currently have the first and last name in one column, whereas to upload these they would need to be separate columns, etc.) Then I would need to define custom fields and go into each DB contact and clean it up and assign all the categories to which each contact belongs (I think).

I know they don't have much money (my friend works there), and I have absolutely no idea how much to say I would charge. I also don't think it's even possible to estimate how long this would take since I've never done it before and don't have a firm grasp at this point on how incomplete and messy their info is now (but I think it's bad!). I don't have a job right now, so whatever money they pay me would be helpful, but I don't want to give my services away and if they decided not to pay a fair wage, I could go get a temp job.

Can anyone help me to set a fair price so that I'm not gouging them but I'm also not undervaluing myself? (I've seen this but I don't think it really applies too well here.

Thanks so much!
posted by la petite marie to Work & Money (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I have no experience or credibility in suggesting this: you might consider the average hourly compensation you would receive as a temp doing similar work ( entry level DB management) and add 25-30% to work as an independent contractor. Hope it works for both of you.
posted by rmhsinc at 10:09 AM on January 9, 2013

If you do end up giving them a discount (since they are probably on a small budget, you might), you might want to at least have an idea of the number you would charge a for-profit business for reference and as a starting point.
posted by Make Way for Ducklings! at 10:20 AM on January 9, 2013

Best answer: While this is an intriguing offer, if you're not familiar with the software, it could take much longer than the non-profit is willing to wait. I would explain to the Director that this is not in your wheelhouse and that you're willing to make an effort, but can't really give a specific time-frame.

That said, if you're up for the challenge, and you don't care how much time you pour into this and if the non-profit doesn't care when they get it, come up with a figure you're comfortable with and go from there.

I would submit this number with a breakdown of the steps that need to be accomplished in order to complete the project, a Scope of Work.

1. Take the introductory course to learn the software.

2. Compile the data to be uploaded into the new database.

3. Prepare and cleanse the data to be uploaded into the new database.

4. Upload the data into the database.

5. Do a needs assessment with each member of the non-profit to understand the functionality needed from the database for each department/role.

6. Do the preliminary set-up of the user hierarchies, groups, etc.

7. Design the pages, customization, etc.

8. Testing

9. Roll out to users

10. Tweaking and perfecting.

11. On-going updates and maintenance.

You see how it works. Too many times folks who don't work with software, don't really understand everything that goes on behind the scenes to prepare it for use. If this is something that the non-profit expects to use "off the shelf" and their isn't much customization, it will be faster than if they require a lot of customization. Either way they should understand the scope of the project and the time and energy required to bring it on-board.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:44 AM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

don't commit to this unless you are willing to make it your full time job and you feel confident that you can deliver. There is a reason companies pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for db consultants.

OTOH, 30k, six months is both giving you way more time than a consultant would normally have, and making them spend way less money than they would through hiring a professional.
posted by sarahnicolesays at 10:49 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: When I did database work for a similar tiny non-profit years ago, I charged them half my commercial rate.

However, if you are just learning how to use the database, and have not been doing this commercially, I would strongly advise really assessing what you can offer here. The database I took over from the non-profit had been put together by someone who apparently was learning as they went along, and it was an unholy mess. While I did better than the original developer, I was still pretty new at db work, too. It worked, but it took me more time than it would have taken an experienced developer, so I don't think they saved that much money hiring me.

You do have technical knowledge, and the database software you are looking at may be more well-designed and beginner-friendly than Access 97 *crosses self*. You may be able to make this work if everyone's expectations are clear. If you need training, there may be local classes, or you may find the company's online resources to be enough to get you going.

The company also offers something called a SmartPlan: this combo of upgrades, support and training may be something the non-profit is willing to invest in as part of the project.

How clear have you been with the Director about your level of experience? If they know what we know from this question, then I'd agree with rmhinc: put a small surcharge on what you would earn as a data entry person. Then estimate the time you think it would take, add 25%, and be prepared to work a few more hours for free. Most people really under-estimate how much time any project will take.

Do a great job, and you will have a résumé entry and reference that will help you get more work!

On preview: Ruthless Bunny has excellent advice. Please listen to her.
posted by maudlin at 10:56 AM on January 9, 2013

Response by poster: Thank you all so much - you've given me a lot to think about. Please keep comments coming if you think of anything else -- I can use all the help in thinking about this as I can get!
posted by la petite marie at 12:46 PM on January 9, 2013

If you, as suggested, want to charge them 1/2 your usual rate make an arrangement to get paid your full rate and donate half back to the nonprofit (but do your homework on this, you'll pay taxes on the amount you're paid), you'll be able to write off the donation.

And, follow Ruthless bunny's advice....
posted by HuronBob at 2:57 PM on January 9, 2013

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