Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
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Meet Kaitlynn McGuire – MOFGA’s Database Manager

Kaitlynn McGuire. Photo by Marta Laszkiewicz

Kaitlynn McGuire. Photo by Marta Laszkiewicz

A native of Skowhegan and now a resident of Monroe, Kaitlynn McGuire – MOFGA’s database manager – attended College of the Atlantic, has a vocational degree in digital visual arts and has managed an organic farm.

Q. What does a database manager do? Much more than sit at a computer and enter addresses, right? What kinds of data do you manage for MOFGA, other than memberships?

A database manager at MOFGA does all kinds of things! I spend a lot of time poring over data, entering it, and refining and changing our systems, but I also spend a lot of time talking with members and managing our renewal efforts. A typical day for me can have me entering membership data, programming a new functionality into our database system, talking with members, designing and pulling reports, and writing a new membership email. MOFGA has many programs, and I in some way touch the data in almost all of them. I spend a lot of time swimming in membership and donation data, but I also spend hours on Fair vendor contracts, event registrations and all of the processes in between.

Q. You seem to be excited about some new ways of managing MOFGA’s data. Can you tell us a little about them?

I am excited! I’m currently finalizing MOFGA’s transition from an in-house system to Blackbaud Altru. Some of our departments have already completely transitioned. If you’ve recently signed up for a MOFGA event, you might have noticed the snazzy new appearance and payment processing. Altru will streamline most of our data entry processes and allow us to keep more complex data. This will mean we can better serve people with multiple businesses, vacation addresses and specific communication preferences. It will also bring together data sets that have been separate in the past. Anyone who stops by the membership booths at the Fair will see that we’ll be operating on Altru!

Q. How did you learn to be so computer savvy?

Ha! Well, as many people can attest, I was not always computer savvy. When I was 13, I was given the opportunity to spend a day with a student in the digital graphic arts program at the Somerset Career and Technical Center, and I just fell in love with digital graphic arts and computers. I took every opportunity I had from then on to immerse myself in computers and learn how to do things. From the beginning, my inclination was to try everything. This often resulted in breaking things within my own computers, so from a young age I had to learn to fix them. I can’t count the number of times I’ve faced a frozen computer screen or, worse, the blue screen of death and had to figure out what was wrong and how to fix it. I also spent a lot of time in college focusing on technology and technological education with local grade-school kids, college students and other community members.

Q. Is summer a particularly busy time of year for you? Do many more memberships come in just before the Common Ground Country Fair so that people can get into the Fair free all three days?

Summer is a very busy time of year. About a third of our membership expires in September, so the number of memberships and member communications that come in and go out is massive. We definitely have a boom in memberships (new and renewing) in the week before the Fair. We hope (and are often told) that those members enjoy the other perks of membership, too, but the Fair is definitely a large incentive to renew. Our members particularly love the MOFGA community, their subscription to The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener, and discounts on educational events too.

Q. If people become members just before or at the Fair, do they get into the Fair free?

They do! That’s one of the reasons our membership booths outside of the Fair gates attract such large crowds.

Q. How to you prepare for all those who want to join or renew their memberships on their way into the Fair? You seemed to have had a commendable setup for this last year.

Getting the membership booths ready for the Fair is always an interesting process. Generally it’s a large, collaborative effort between the coordinators who help me plan, decorate and run the booths every year, and me. This year we are doing a lot more planning related to signage and the technology infrastructure at the booth. In the past, we’ve almost always used paper membership books to take memberships, but now we are going to process memberships on the spot in our live Altru database system. It should be a much faster process for renewing members and a similar process for new members. It will also allow us to send out correspondence alerting members to the many membership benefits much more quickly than we’ve been able to in the past.

Q. Do you have a life outside of MOFGA? Would you like to tell us about your horses, dogs or any other aspects of farm life in Monroe?

I do! My partner and I are currently spending many hours trying to work through the home/farm-buying process. We also have two dogs, two cats and two horses, and they each take up quite a bit of time. Seamus, our youngest dog, is 5 months old and is in puppy class and in need of a great deal of training outside of class. One of our horses is a 28-year-old retiree, and he’s a gentle joy to groom and walk. Both cats and dogs (and our older horse) are rescues with their own adorable quirks. In the little spare time I have that isn’t spent with the animals or in downtown Belfast, I’m generally reading or working through a course of some type. I’m really excited to finally purchase our farm (hopefully early this fall) and feel able to set down roots and grow more food next year.


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