Gord Warrenchuk has a life-long love of solving puzzles and creating things. As a kid, he even built forts out of dead Christmas trees. Today he builds database management systems for non-profits – and he does it for free.
At the ELC, we call Gord our database guru with good reason. Starting in 2012, he delivered us from complex and confusing spreadsheets and developed customized software that we use almost every day. He is a core member of the ELC team.
“Most people don’t understand what a database is,” says Gord. “So I’m changing the terminology and calling it customized software.”
Gord started working with computers since 1969. When databases became a thing, he got involved in the technology and made it his career. After retirement, he had to figure out what to build and for whom.
“I thought about non-profits. They get free databases and I get to build databases: it’s a win/win!”
His software solves problems, but what kind of problems depends on the work an organization does. (See his website for some examples: Savantdatabase.ca).
“A typical non-profit has all their information in spreadsheets, which is okay until you get hundreds of rows and want to find specific information,” says Gord. “Eventually you get burdened down. The software I build makes it easy to quickly look up answers to queries. I take people’s problems, issues, classes, registration, memberships, volunteers, and build software to make it easier for them for find the information they need. In a nutshell, that’s what I do.”
As a legal clinic, the ELC operates like a law firm, but not exactly. Regular legal office management software couldn’t seem to capture the nuances we needed to organize our work easily (or affordably). Gord developed customized software that helps us track from everything from conflict checks and managing contacts to organizing files and producing data for reporting to funders. It’s been over seven years, and he’s still making improvements and asking what else we need the database to do.
Gord has been providing free software to organizations for over 10 years. Although he keeps busy in retirement, he’s looking to help more non-profits. As we chat, I suggest to Gord that prospective clients should know he will ask a LOT of questions to find out how they gather and use their information. He has to really understand what your organization does to figure out how to build your database. (In fact, a number of times during the interview, he started asking ME questions!)
“That’s exactly what I need to know! What do you need this database to do for you?”
Part of what inspires him about the work is that there’s always something new to learn and a new puzzle to solve. Well, it’s no puzzle that we appreciate Gord at the ELC! If you know a non-profit that needs its own database you should definitely reach out to him.
- Link: Gord’s website