Stop and think about the health of the data in your donor database. When was the last time any cleaning or maintenance was done? Is it part of a normal routine?
We all run into situations on an almost daily basis that scream “Dirty Data”, “Duplicate Data”, “Useless Data”, etc. But what are you doing about it? Do you know what to do or how to do it? There are always issues with data that will creep up over and over again until they are addressed.
Your donor database is highly complicated and detailed. Over the course of time, how many staff and volunteers, with different skill sets, have been allowed to edit your data in some way and contribute to the less than stellar shape that it is in?
Most organizations face the same issues, but how they deal with or ignore them separates them. An audit is the starting point to finding out exactly what and how much is amiss, addressing it, and then making maintenance and cleaning part of your normal routine.
In my career I have had direct experience with wearing many hats and having heavy workloads thrust upon me as a nonprofit employee. Sometimes there is little or no time to navigate the data trail, finding and fixing common, glaring issues.
You know or suspect you have problems, but how and when can you tackle it?
If you don’t have someone on staff with the expertise to clean up your donor database, consider hiring a consultant to provide you with an audit. An audit will identify what you are doing right, what is going wrong, and what steps you need to take to get back on track.
So, when should you get an audit? NOW of course!
Following are some of the benefits of an audit:
Mailings: An audit will expose missing titles, names, addresses, addressees, salutations. Are you mailing to or soliciting minors? What about your service area or state? Do you target solicitations to certain counties? Is the county field populated?
Duplicate records: Do you have the same person with multiple records? Are they necessary? Are you mailing to spouses or other household members separately? Should you?
Duplicate addresses: Every time you add a new, preferred address, are you checking the address tab?
Merged records: Duplicate information can be copied over during this process.
Security: Are you lazy when it comes to security? Does everyone have the same access regardless of their job function and capabilities? Often this is the single largest problem and causes the most damage.
Deceased constituents: Are you mailing to or soliciting dead people? Have you overlooked the surviving spouse?
Record archiving: How long do you solicit a prospect? How long has the record been in the system without any activity? Do you know how to keep your history, but remove from your mailings?
Data underpins all of your development efforts from gift acknowledgement, invitations, prospect identification, stewardship and beyond. When your data becomes a tangled web, your ability to fundraise suffers. Donors are not thanked and renewed. Major gift opportunities are lost forever. When you add up the losses incurred from bad data, the return on investment in your data skyrockets.
The Devil’s in the data! Make it Good.