How to Simplify Nonprofit Donor Database Management

Just like keeping a clean house, managing your nonprofit donor database to have clean data means regular upkeep and a good schedule of maintenance. While it’s tempting to put off data cleanup, because it’s one of those tasks we dread, data hygiene affects fundraising efforts in many ways.

What does data hygiene mean? In its simplest form, data hygiene means data without errors. Good nonprofit donor database management means regularly checking for errors such as duplicate records, misspelled addresses, and missing information. It can also mean ensuring that your organization does not have redundant data tracking procedures and inconsistent data entry processes.

For the best nonprofit donor database, database managers should complete a data assessment, establish a standard for data entry, and review current and historical data regularly. Your nonprofit may also want to consider the power of automation to help.

Benefits of Clean Data in a Nonprofit Donor Database

Having clean, consistent, and regularly audited data in your nonprofit donor database might seem like an undertaking, but it will lead to fewer headaches down the road! A database with good data hygiene has many benefits for your nonprofit, which include:

  • Data quality improvement
  • Improved data decision making
  • Improved segmenting and targeting of specific donor groups
  • Improved efficiencies in database processes
  • Cost savings- for example, less returned direct mail

Saving staff time and expense is essential in the world of nonprofit fundraising. Having clean data can improve your key performance indicators like the cost to raise a dollar, which will make everyone happy.

Where to Focus Your Attention for Good Donor Database Management

Efforts to ensure good data hygiene begin with a complete data assessment. For many nonprofits that can seem overwhelming, but this process doesn’t have to scare you. It’s likely your donor database has a built-in tool that you can use to begin. If you use Raiser’s Edge start with Data Health.

When doing a data assessment you will want to look for redundancies errors, common mistakes in data entry, and missing information. Ensure that your team is looking at different types of records, both individual constituents and organizations, and review areas of high-level use first.

Areas of high-level use will include biographical data, contact information, tracking options, addressee/salutation, and gift history. Ask different members of the team what data they regularly access. The information used may be different for gift officers and database administrators. The addressee/salutation designation is one of the most commonly used, yet overlooked fields in nonprofit donor databases.

Establishing a Standard for Donor Database Entry

Strong standards for data entry are important for long-term data hygiene. This document should be saved in a central location, where any staff, present or future, can locate it before using the donor database.

Always train new staff or any volunteers who use the database on the standards before using the database.

Begin by reviewing the results of your data assessment. Consider what common errors you found. Think about things that may seem minor, but occur as errors regularly such as entering names in all caps or typing out Street vs. St. in an address.

When setting up a new standard you will also want to ask yourself these questions:

  1. Is it beneficial to track data in this way?
  2. Is this redundant to an existing tracking area?
  3. How difficult is this to maintain over time?

Good standards will help your team maintain data hygiene over time. A nonprofit organization can potentially save money on a database contract by reducing the number of constituents. This can be done by finding duplicate or deceased records that you can eliminate from the constituent count.

Maintain Data by Regularly Reviewing Current and Historical Data in the Donor Database

Set up a regular schedule of data you check weekly and monthly. Check to see if the data matches your nonprofit data entry standard for your donor database. Pay special attention to error patterns to identify and correct these. Use maintenance queries to show problems, such as records that have no address. For more ideas on which queries to review each week, check out our suggestions in this webinar at the 22:21 minute mark.

Regularly review historical data to ensure it matches your standards for donor database management. Set up a specific time and schedule for running data appends like address accelerator, address finder, age finder, credit card updater, deceased record finder, e-mail finder, or phone finder. The available options will be different based on your database provider.

Four Additional Steps to Nonprofit Donor Database Maintenance You Should Not Overlook

  1. Review and Merge Duplicate Records- if using Raiser’s Edge NXT, we highly recommend you merge in WebView first.
  2. Data Mining within a Constituent Record- a database manager can compare existing data you already have to help supplement missing data in other fields. For example, if a donor makes an online gift, you then compare the credit cardholder field against a constituent’s recorded name on the bio1/org1 line.
  3. Establish a Preferred Name Field
  4. Table Clean Up- utilize a table cleanup plugin within the configuration in Raiser’s Edge’s database view, which will help enable data entry to be clean and consistent, reduce redundancies, and remove errors. Consider locking down who has permission to change tables to decrease errors further.

Consider Using Automation to Assist with Database Maintenance

Automation boasts many exciting opportunities to help with database maintenance. Simple low-code and no-code options exist to help with:

  • Alert when a duplicate constituent record is created
  • Automatically fill in a blank “preferred” name/nickname field
  • Mark e-mails/phones as “primary”
  • Validate new e-mails, and alert when the email is invalid
  • Allow non-privileged users to submit a record change
  • Update consent records from info in constituent e-mails
  • Marks records with a blank address as “No Valid Address”

Many of these options are available through Power Automate.

Nonprofit donor database maintenance is a continuous process. Strongly established standards of entry and processes can ensure data health maintenance isn’t an overwhelming, headache-inducing problem. Check your nonprofit data health today and begin reducing errors for strong data hygiene. With a few important steps, you will have clean data and reduce both staff time and costs.

Learn more about this in our full webinar and sign up to learn more about some exciting upcoming tools to help with automation.

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