Established in 1992, Planet Ark Environmental Foundation is an Australian not-for-profit organisation which encourages people to live in balance with nature.
Working in a non-political, non confrontational style they run a number of practical ongoing recycling and sustainability campaigns. Every year on the last weekend in July, National Tree Day and Schools Tree Day combine to create Australia’s largest community environmental event. Since the campaign began in 1996 over 20 million seedlings have been planted.
The majority of the sites are school-related but there are a significant number of public and private sites involved. Currently the campaign covers over 2000 planting sites and involves over 1700 co-ordinators and 45 supporting organisations.
More than 10 years ago, Planet Ark created a FileMaker solution in response to a need to centrally manage the massive amount of data related to the campaign. Ian Bridges, formerly IT Manager and now Chief Information Officer at Planet Ark, has used FileMaker solutions since 1989. He takes up the story:
“People were using spreadsheets for overlapping purposes, with version control issues and no ability to access, collate and report across multiple files in different locations.”
This is a classic scattered information scenario, which rapidly deteriorated as the campaign expanded. Other technologies and solutions were tried, but the costs of customisation to meet specific needs were prohibitive. Ian explains how FileMaker solutions are deployed:
“The FileMaker platform underpins the management of data for coordinators, schools and councils and other stakeholders in our largest campaign, National Tree Day. The same data is shared across other campaigns, assists media and helps manage and maintain SQL data. Custom reports and dashboards are used to give campaign managers snapshots of progress, and graphical comparisons with previous years, for example individual site and plant numbers.”
All solutions are developed in house. Ian continues:
“The IT team has a specialist database position with FileMaker skills as an essential requirement, and each of us on the IT team has considerable FileMaker development experience. John Pashley, our database manager has done FileMaker training and accreditation, as had our previous database manager.
Integrated FileMaker solutions include:
Coordinator Data – shows participation history including recording the number of trees planted, the number of volunteers involved, and types of activity. For example schools may integrate a planting with lessons about the environment.
Campaign Statistics – records the number of sites registered as well as the estimated number of trees, plants and volunteers compared to previous years.
Sponsor Engagement – a leading automotive firm is the major sponsor. Connecting car dealers with sites in their area makes it easier for them to help directly in supplying plants, tree guards, catering and other assistance.
Competitions – keeps track of entries in annual competitions for schools and other groups.
Media – identifies sites in different geographic locations to promote to local media.
Nurseries – a database of nurseries who can supply plants to local sites.
Local Councils – data to match sites with council nurseries and Landcare staff who can assist.
Other solutions include asset and contract registers, staff timesheets, and an image database. The number of linked databases and tables and their functionality has grown over time.
Planet Ark currently makes good use of all components of the FileMaker 13 platform. Ian Bridges continues:
“Our use of FileMaker solutions has grown continuously over the years. For example, we make much greater use of the layout templates and charting as those have improved, and added remote SQL connections to our web data when that became available.”
Ian lists the main advantages of FileMaker solutions:
- the ability to integrate data from multiple sources
- multiuser and remote access capability
- easy custom report building
- rapid development cycle to respond to changing needs.
His final word:
“FileMaker solutions are both cost- and time-effective. We can respond quickly to user needs for data collection and reporting, build solutions on the fly and provide efficient workflows. Planet Ark is a small team trying to achieve big things. Without FileMaker solutions, we would struggle to deliver our campaigns and achieve our goals of helping people and businesses reduce their environmental impact.”
Thank you to Ian Bridges from Planet Ark Environmental Foundation for sharing his story with us.