Preparing for a Campaign? Clean Your Data!
At Averill, we serve organizations that change lives, lift families out of poverty, heal the sick, empower through education, and lead scientific breakthrough. Building capacity is critical to the fulfillment of each organization’s mission and maintaining correct, updated, and clean donor data is foundational to that process. This is especially true when preparing for a campaign.
When was the last time you scrubbed your donor database?
Regardless of whether you are planning for a capital campaign, if you can’t recall when you last cleaned your database, now is the time. During this process, it is also important to ensure your organization is implementing the database management best practices listed below.
1. Assign a database manager or owner
2. Create database management policies and procedures, and share them with each person on your team who uses the program and enters information
3. Identify at least one person on your team to manage gift entry, and train one to two others to avoid any potential gaps in time for vacation, sick days, etc.
4. Permit full access to only those who need to enter, edit, and update information; determine level of access required for others within your organization
5. Schedule weekly or monthly data updates; depending on database size, availability of new information, and resources
Updating donor data is critical to communicate organizational competency and viability, and, in some cases, surfacing new information provides an opportunity to contact your donors.
The list below identifies areas that require constant attention to ensure accuracy and avoid pitfalls.
1. Identify duplicate records. If more than one record exists for a donor, merge them into one. Otherwise your donor might be receiving two solicitation letters for every mailing and inconsistencies almost undoubtedly will exist between the two records.
2. Update home addresses. If a letter is returned marked “wrong address”, make sure it is marked in the database. For an updated address, call that person, and if you can’t reach him or her, search the internet or call others in the community who might have an new address.
3. Update phone numbers and email addresses. Did you make a phone call and receive an “out of order” greeting or reach the wrong person? Have you sent a note to a non-function email address? It’s time to update your donor’s contact information. Call him or her, write an email (if you have a live address), or reach out to others in the community who might have updated information. In recent years, we have found cell phones, not home phones, to be the best method of phone contact; ask donors whether work or personal email is best. There are also paid programs which can sweep your entire database to update phone numbers and email addresses. If you have the budget, this could be a cost-effective solution.
4. Record major life events. Did a donor recently have a baby? Did he or she get married? These major life events are critically important to add to a donor’s file – and provide an opportunity to make contact to check in or congratulate him or her.
5. Record Career Moves. Each record should contain information about a donor’s business or workplace. It can be challenging in today’s ever-changing market to stay up to date on your donors’ business whereabouts. However, if you do find that a donor has switched roles within a company or changed jobs, update his or her record. This is another opportunity to make contact and send a congratulatory note.
6. Mark deceased prospects. This may seem like a no-brainer, but this is a commonly overlooked database update at organizations. In the unfortunate circumstance of the passing of a donor, mark his or her record as soon as possible, and determine a plan to follow up with his or her family to express your condolences. After some time, it would be appropriate to have a discussion with a family member to determine the best mailing address moving forward or how to include them in communications from the organization.
Incorporate running reports into your update process. This will help to identify discrepancies and address these issues as soon as possible.
In addition to ensuring individual data is clean, it is important to develop a system for recording donor interaction. Most donor CRMs are equipped to track latest correspondence, important updates, and donor meetings.
Recording interactions, adding the most up-to-date information, and cleaning your data will ensure anyone on your team who views an individual’s record can pick up where another member of your team left off.
Good luck with your data sweep!