As a company that specializes in donor management we know how important it is to keep your donor data up to date. As you continue to collect information and add to your database you may find some discrepancies. Emails begin to bounce back, donors addresses or phone numbers may change and you may even struggle with duplicate entries!
Keeping up to date with your data hygiene is key when it comes to working efficiently. Having a detailed database can give you a ton of insight but it can become overwhelming to dig through a sea of dirty data and information. Especially for those not familiar with your database.
So why does clean data matter?
- Gives you better and more actionable information
- Makes reports more accurate and reliable so you can develop data driven strategies to grow
- Merging your mailing list will take less time
- Allows you to better convert and steward your supporters
All of this means you're working more efficiently! A great donor management software like Donor Engine will help you save hours of time but by keeping your data clean and up to date you will be getting the most out of your data.
6 Steps to Cleaner Donor Data
1. Create and use data entry rules for your team
When it comes to data entry consistency is key! Donors take note of the little details so ensuring all information has the correct spelling, punctuation and capitalization shows your nonprofit pays attention to detail. This will ultimately build trust with your donors and make your organization look like the amazing professionals you are! Donor Engine has a feature that will automatically capitalize names and correct some formatting, but you can also add rules that align with how you prefer your data is formatted.
When setting up your list of entry rules clarify details like
- Addressing donors with formal names or nicknames
- Using "Mr” or "Mrs” versus the donors first name
- Spelling our or using abbreviations of roadways (for example ST vs street)
- Spelling or abbreviating states, provinces and territory names
- How addresses and apartment numbers will be entered
- Is the donation date the date on the check or the day it was entered into the system?
- Will phone numbers be entered using spaces, dashes or brackets?
By keeping a standard for how data is being entered not only will it look better but also keep you from having duplicates of data.
2. Get Permission when adding names and make note of preferences
It can be tempting to get as many names and numbers in your list when you're just starting out but don’t fall into that trap! It will just end up polluting your data in the long run making it harder for you to find information. Donor Engine uses a two step opt in which ensures that your email list is full of people who want to hear from you and decreases the chance you’ll end up in their spam folder!
Get permission for a donor before adding them to your database. Ask before adding or use pop ups or forms so people can voluntarily enter their information to your list. When adding new members you can also gather the best way to communicate with them whether it be by phone, email or no solicitations if they prefer.
3. Get Rid of Duplicates
Having duplicate information not only is a waste of space but can lead to more errors and missed information in your communication strategy. A good database software will have a duplication feature built in. If using Donor Engine, the software will let you know if there are duplicates of any of your supporters. You can then merge the two accounts together or do an advance merge to choose specific information you want to keep.
If you have 2 entries for the same person, merge the information and delete any old information with only a few clicks. Searching by last names or addresses is a great way to spot duplicates and deal with them accordingly. Donor Engine’s auditing functionality tracks all the changes that were made and by whom, so if any mistakes were to happen, they can be easily reverted.
Donor Engine has powerful organizational and relationship management that allows you to accurately organize your files. You can add spouses together so you know they are both from the same household, choose if you want them to be addressed together (saving on mailing costs!) and choose their preferred salutation.
4. Delete information of unengaged donors.
Database systems often charge by the volume of entries so save yourself money and clutter by flagging or removing inactive supporters . If there are people on your list who have been receiving asks and newsletter and haven’t donated or responded in over 3 years, it may be time to let them go.
With Donor Engine, unengaged clean up is low risk. If you’re nervous to let them go or still want to keep the information for future simply mark them as inactive, so they remain in your database but are not counted towards your total record count, you can even still report on them. If there is anyone who has never given in the past 4-5 years it’s probably best to just delete them from your database.
If an email bounces give the donor a call to update their email address, if there is no other contact information or number consider marked them as inactive. Using Donor Engine, if they do make a future donation, the tool will reactivate them and you can merge any new data with the old. For donors who have given in the past but opted out of your mailing list, keep them in the database but make note to not send them communications.
5. Segment out your key stakeholders
Your supporter data list may include people who you want "in the know”. may . This includes media contacts, government officials, collaborating partners, and others who are important to your cause.
Tag or group these records so you know who may want to get a solicitation communication and who may not. . Media contacts may see something important in your newsletter that can get you coverage, so even if they aren’t giving monetary donations they’re a great contact to have.
6. Run an annual NCOA update
Roughly 15% of the population moves each year, that means there may be some bad addresses on your mailing list. You can visit the National Change of Address, a secure database of approximately 160 million change-of-addresses going back 48 months. This database has information with new addresses from individuals, families and businesses that have moved. NCOA is a great way to make sure your addresses are accurate.
Donor Engine is actually working on a feature to automatically check that the address being entered is correct based off of the NCOA database. This way you’re always using the correct address!
- Have a process for inputting names, dates and addresses.
- Designate someone on your team to be in charge of your data entry and hygiene.
- Set time aside to a yearly data audit and clean up. Discrepancies are inevitable so take some time to review records, delete bounced email addresses, and merge duplicate records.
- Don’t be afraid to contact your donors for an update mailing or email address when you see fit. You can even use it as a way to check in, say hi and ask them how they’re doing.