Excel is a great tool for creating spreadsheets, but not so great for coordinating a complex database of members. When your organization starts growing quick enough, it will lead to what is affectionally  known as “Excel Hell.” Chances are, if you’re using excel, you’re either already in it, or knocking at the gates.

1. Rows are Mysteriously Disappearing

You just hired an intern and somehow rows started mysteriously disappearing. Or maybe your new employee, who bolded excel in their resume, was really stretching the truth somehow. Either way, rows are disappearing, and your only hope is that someone backed the original file up. Best of luck syncing the backup file with the members who were added after the rows disappeared.

Excel just isn’t made for sharing, and accidental deletions are bound to happen.

2. Meetings Often Start With “How Do You Do ‘x’ In Excel?”

Excel was designed for spreadsheets, not managing membership rosters. This will invariably lead to employees asking how they can solve problems using the wrong tool! When solving one problem creates ten others, you are using the wrong tool for the job.

3. When You Need To Do Anything Other Than Update a Record, You Can’t

There is no point in having data if you can’t properly utilize and act on it.

Fancy that, organizations need to do more than just update a member’s name and address! So what happens when the time comes around where you want to e-mail your members (or even worse, only specific members)? I’ll tell you what happens: you start seeking alternative solutions to do it.

One of the worst example of excel hell I’ve heard involves an organization that would copy and paste their members’ emails in outlook, twenty at a time, and spend hours upon hours emailing those members. If time is money, excel is your personal money shredder!

4. You Have No Idea Who Changed What

Picture this: you come into work, sip some coffee, and decide that you’re going to reach out to some donors to feed the bank account that’s getting depleted by the time you’re wasting using Excel. You load your “god list” and lo-and-behold, half the emails are missing. Now begins the five stages of grief as you quickly jump out of your seat, run into the office, and start yelling “what the heck happened to our email list?!?!?”.

Don’t worry, you probably have a backup somewhere. But do worry that you have no idea who made those changes, and more importantly, why they did.

5. You Find Yourself Reading About Other Organizations Ruined By Excel

Consider the following gems:

  • 2012 Olympic Events: Believe it or not, they were using excel (*GASP*) to track ticket sales. Well wouldn’t you guess it: a spreadsheet error led to four synchronized swimming events being massively oversold. What happened next makes every organization cringe: they have to call thousands of ticket holders to tell them that they weren’t really ticket holders. Makes you wonder who drew that short straw and what rehab clinic they’re currently checked into.
  • Knox County Trustee’s Office: “The auditor in late October discovered what officials called a $6 million accounting error. KPMG officials also said the Trustee’s Office took too long — four weeks — to compile information that makes up the office’s portion of the county’s financial statements and that it “was significantly out of balance.”
  • Securities and Exchange Commission: “Their financial reporting is still heavily based on spreadsheets: ‘This process area continues to have a significant deficiency in FY 2011. Many of the agency’s financial reporting processes are still manual in nature and reliant on spreadsheets and databases to both initiate transactions and perform key control functions.’ … ‘Their CFO promises to improve this in the coming year'”

Feel free to read more spreadsheet horror stories!

Getting Out of Excel Hell

Head over to the Zenbership website to see how our free open source membership software can help you get out of excel hell!