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6 Ways to Keep Your Donor Data in Top Shape

Keep your donor data in shape with these 6 strategies.

When you think about it, your donor data might just be your most valuable asset. It drives your donor communications, powers your fundraising efforts, and feeds your reports. Shouldn’t it be complete, accurate, and in tip-top shape?

Here are six ideas for ensuring the wellness of your donor data:

1. Think about who needs what data and why.

Various people in your organization have different needs for different information. Think about each role in your organization. Write down what information they need to see and for what purpose. This will help you understand which data points are important to collect and keep updated and easily accessible. For example:

    • Board members – These are “numbers” people. They typically want to see that what they are investing their time and dollars in is generating results. They typically want the bottom line, not a lot of fluff. For example, they usually do well with visual reports showing key performance metrics, goals, and the organization’s progress toward reaching those goals.
    • Development team – These folks need to be able to track the donors they’re working with. They need to stay up-to-date on donor interactions and stewardship as well as know when they have a new prospective donor. They need to be able to demonstrate that they’re working toward fundraising goals. Therefore, they need data that tells them: Are they making connections? Are they moving constituents toward a closer relationship with the organization? Is the organization seeing results of those relationships? Are all of these things happening in a timely manner?
    • Donors – These supporters want to be spoken with accurately, about topics they’re interested in, and in their preferred method of communication. No donor wants to donate to a specific cause and then receive solicitations for something completely irrelevant. They don’t want to see a lot of paper mail if they prefer communicating electronically. They want accurate receipts and communications. That is why it is important to track information such as where the donor is giving, how they are giving, how much they’ve given, and what prompted them to give.

2. Decide how often to clean your data.

It’s important to run data integrity queries (DIQs) in your fundraising software frequently enough that they don’t pile up and become overwhelming. At the same time, you don’t want to run them so often that there are so few records to update that it’s not worth the time.

How often you update your data will depend on your specific organization’s needs. Start by running DIQs each week. Then move to every two weeks, then once per month, etc. until you find the right frequency for your organization.

A DIQ can be anything from queries looking for missing data points to queries looking for emails with no @ sign or zip codes not in the five + four format. You may also want to run one-off DIQs. For example, if you have a large or important direct mailing going out, you may want to run a DIQ before pulling the mailing list to ensure you have the most current information possible.

3. Review your data tables, queries, reports, and exports.

It’s important to periodically review data tables, queries, reports, and exports, etc. You should periodically review your data tables (data in spreadsheet/tabular form) and inactivate any erroneous table entries. Then use a query to find and delete these table entries from constituent records so they can ultimately be deleted from the tables.

Periodically review your query file. Look for global changes that are more than 30 days old and notify the owner of the file to remove the changes (or follow your company policy on this). You should also review queries to see if you have any that have not been run in the past 12 months and notify the owner; ask if the queries should be removed or maybe put in an archive folder. Repeat this exercise with reports and exports.

4. Update your database policies.

Plan to review your policies and procedures at least once each year to make sure the information is accurate. Be sure that your policies and procedures include consistent naming standards for campaigns, events, queries, exports, etc. to make searching and reporting easier and more accurate.

Any time you change a policy or procedure, be sure to notify the entire organization. Let them know the details of what has been changed and why it has been modified. This will help them understand the importance of the change and its impact on the organization.

5. Keep staff members well trained.

You may find that as you run DIQs, you see consistent data integrity issues. Those issues are a signal that you may need to re-train your database administration staff on policies. You also may need to update your data entry procedures manual to ensure directions are clear and correct.

6. Revisit your staff onboarding checklist.

As staff members join your organization, it’s important to have a comprehensive checklist to ensure the security of your data and make sure new staff members have the tools they need to do their jobs. A few items to consider for your checklist:

    • Determine what data permissions/access they’ll need to do their jobs, and set them up in the system.
    • Provide them with user names and passwords for system and program access.
    • Schedule a training session with them to go over policies and procedures.

Maintaining a high level of donor data health and hygiene may seem overwhelming. But it’s critically important to multiple functions across your organization.

If you need more help managing your donor database and keeping your data clean and accurate, contact Cathexis Partners.


This article was submitted by Erin Fleischmann from Cathexis Partners. By: Erin Fleischmann, Strategic Consultant, Cathexis Partners

Erin has more than a decade of experience in nonprofit technology, including everything from system implementations and project management to strategy and leveraging technology. Prior to joining Cathexis Partners, Erin worked for several nonprofits.

Topics: Donor Management