[1.0] PBDB Consulting Services

[2.0] Databases

[3.0] Computer Training

[1.0] PBDB Consulting Services

[1.1] What is PBDBC?

Patrick Block Database Consulting (PBDBC) is a computer consulting business based in New York City. PBDBC works with a diverse group of clients - mainly nonprofits, but also small businesses and corporations.

Services provided by PBDBC include database development, computer training, and consulting on a wide range of computer issues. Click here to read more about the services that PBDBC offers.


[1.2] How do I ask you a question?

Use our online form, located here.


[1.3] Do you only work with clients in New York City?


PBDBC focuses mostly on the 5 boroughs of NYC: Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, Bronx and Staten Island.

However, PBDBC works with clients as far west as California, as far north as Alaska, and as far east as France!


[1.4] Do you only work with nonprofit organizations?

PBDBC works primarily with nonprofits, but does also work with clients in the for-profit sector, including small businessses and large corporations.


[1.5] I'm interested in your services. What happens next?

First, use the "Contact Us" form on this site to get in touch with us. ( Click here to see that form now.)

Next we'll discuss what you're looking for on the phone or via email. If appropriate, we'll meet in person to discuss things further. This initial meeting is free.

Finally, we'll sign a letter of agreement establishing costs and such. After the letter of agreement is signed, work can begin on your project.


[2.0] Databases

[2.1] What is a "database"?

The simplest explanation for a database is that it's just a list, usually a list of people.

You may already make lists on the computer. You may have used Microsoft Excel to make your lists, or maybe you've used tables in Microsoft Word or Corel Wordperfect. A spreadsheet or table allows you to organize a list into columns and rows.

Many nonprofits need to keep lists of donors, donations and fundraising events. Most nonprofits also need to keep a list of the people they serve - their clients - and perhaps also the services they render to their clients on a daily basis.

There are problems with using spreadsheets or wordprocessor documents for your lists. These sorts of "databases" are not very user-friendly, are not well suited to multi-user environments, do not generally allow complex querying on your data, and do not generally do good data validation. (Data validation, simply put, is making sure users don't enter bogus data.)

Unlike your spreadsheet or wordprocessor software, Microsoft Access is software made especially for databases. PBDB Consulting can create a Microsoft Access database for your organization that is very user-friendly and full of great features to help you do things like automate your mass mailings.


[2.2] What is a "mail merge"?

Most organizations need to send mass mailings at least once in awhile. Non-profits generally send annual solicitation mailings, newsletters, notices that they send their clients, and/or party invitations. For-profits use mass mailings to market to their customers.

When you need to send out a large quantity of personalized letters, it's tedious and time-consuming to have to type addresses on individual letters by hand. A "mail merge" automates this process for you. Whether you need to write 50 letters, 500 letters, or 5,000 letters, with a mail merge the steps are the same. You write the letter only one time, and then let the computer automatically "merge" data from your database into individual copies of the letter you wrote.

With a database constructed by PBDB Consulting, your mail merges will be a breeze! Just a couple of clicks and the letters are ready to print. A couple more clicks and the labels or envelopes are ready to go. All that's left for you to do is stuff the envelopes and apply postage.


[2.3] There are so many choices for databases. How do I know which one is right for my organization?

If your organization is a nonprofit (and even if it's not) you might wish to check out the website TechSoup.org to read some really great articles on databases and on technology in general. There you can read about the pros and cons of different kinds of databases, which may help you find the product that's right for your organization.

PBDB Consulting specializes in creating customized, user-friendly, form-driven databases in Microsoft Access, starting with a modular template that already contains many great features, and then tailoring it to your exact needs. This approach combines many of the benefits found in other kinds of database products.


[2.4] What's wrong with using Excel to track donors?

Some non-profits use Excel to keep a list of donors and their donations. Some clinics use Excel to keep a list of patients and operations. Small businesses may use Excel to track customers and orders, or customers and services rendered.

This works okay (it's WAY better than not using the computer at all), but may lead to some problems. Excel is spreadsheet software, not database software, and it does not have a good facility for working with related sets of data.

For example, the non-profit that uses Excel to store donors and donations will eventually run into the situation where one donor gives a second or third donation. Where do you store this new donation? In a new row? In a new column? Suddenly your mail merges start to go haywire. You have 2 or 3 letters printing out for the same person. When you go to update a donor's address, you update it in one row but not in another. Now you're bombarding your donors with mail, some to current addresses, some to old addresses. Donors hate that!

The answer is to use a relational database, like Microsoft Access. A relational system allows you to use separate tables for separate data entities, and then tie those tables together. The end result is an efficient system that contains better data and is easier to use.


[2.5] How does the license work on a database you create?

Firstly, it is important to note that if you work with PBDBC, you own all the data in your database. We go to great lengths to assure that your data is kept safe and confidential.

In order to protect the base template PBDBC uses for most clients, there are licensing restrictions on products we create, similar to the licensing restrictions found on most commercial software, that limit the use of a product to within a client organization.

If you wish to develop a database product in conjunction with PBDBC and then sell or donate this product to other organizations, a special license can be aquired for a higher rate.


[3.0] Computer Training

[3.1] How long is a computer class?

The right length seems to be 3 hours, with a 10 minute break in the middle.

That is enough time to cover a substantial amount of material and to go in depth on important topics, without giving students more new information than they can assimilate in a single sitting.

When multiple classes are required, it's recommended that the classes be on different days, so students have a chance to practice what they've learned between classes.


[3.2] My organization does not have a computer lab. Can we still have computer classes?


Most agencies don't have computer labs, so we just have to make do! Sometimes computers can be set up in a conference room. Another possibility is to hold a class in a common work area where there are several desks without partitions. No matter how cramped your office space is, there is probably a way to have a class there!


[3.3] What classes do you teach?

PBDB Consulting teaches classes primarily on the following applications:

  • Microsoft Word
  • Excel
  • PowerPoint
  • Publisher
  • Outlook
  • Access
  • Windows
  • Using the Internet

All levels of classes are available, from introductory classes aimed at absolute beginners to advanced classes aimed at power users. Classes can be tailored to the needs of your organization. Classes are also available on other software applications not list above (i.e. WordPerfect, Lotus123, etc.). If you have a specific class in mind, contact us - something can probably be arranged.


[3.4] What is the structure of a class?

This depends somewhat on the class, but in general classes have handouts or guided note-taking forms (forms that provide spaces for students to write specific notes, which helps students follow along during class and supplies them a great guide to use on their own after class).

For most classes, there are pre-frabricated documents that are loaded onto all computers. This gives the class something with which to work, and saves the students from having to do extensive typing, although students do make some documents from scratch.