Interview with an Expert: Nonprofit Donor Database Clean-Up

Tackling nonprofit donor database clean-up can seem like a cumbersome task. Getting a jump-start at the beginning of the year can help manage donor data all year.

From more personalized communications to strong donor retention rates, data matters.

Having a solid donor management system is only one piece of handling donor data. For data to be useful, it must be clean. This means ensuring consistent ways to enter donor information into the database and track data processes.

Every nonprofit organization needs data policies and procedures to manage donor data. Keep the written policies in an easy-to-access central location.  Some organizations use Word documents, while others choose Google Docs.

Choose the right donor database solution for your nonprofit and keep donor info clean for the long term. Clean data means consistent data without errors, duplications, or redundancies.

Clean data means improved decision-making and donor segmentation, which can lead to stronger donor relationships. Clean data also ensures efficiency, saving both time and money.

Donor management software can seem overwhelming, but there are ways to help make it manageable. We sat down with database expert, Austen Brown, to get her best tips and tricks for managing a nonprofit donor database.


Q: How can development teams ensure that all staff members help with donor data management?

A: Get input from all involved when making data decisions. This can help build trust with team members.

For example, when cleaning up tables in the donor database software, present recommendations to the development team and get their feedback before making a change in the system.

Develop data policies and procedures that everyone has access to. It would be best if you kept policies in a central location.

Some organizations use a Word document, while others use Google Docs.

All staff members, from those who use email marketing to those who assist with payment processing at events, can help with comprehensive donor data and ensure accuracy.


Q: What is your favorite tip for development professionals hoping to keep their donor data clean throughout the year?

A: Keep on top of incoming data and ensure it’s up to your standard. Check out my list of 20 queries that I covered in the Cleaning Your Donor Database: A Practical Step-by-Step Guide webinar. I recommend running these queries every week.

Constituent Query

  1. Any additions made to records by users
  1. New constituents added by NXT
  1. Blank address with NVA unchecked
  1. Country is blank on Addresses
  1. Address not validated, missing County
  1. Primary Add/Sal are blank
  1. Constituents missing informal Add/Sal
  1. Recently deceased constituents
  1. Review tribute record descriptions
  1. Constituent code is blank
  1. Preferred Name field is blank
  1. Email address with common typos
  1. Hard Bounced emails still active
  1. Required attributes missing on record
  1. Opportunities without a linked gift


Gift Query

  1. Gifts without tracking attributes
  1. Unacknowledged gifts/HM Tributes
  1. Credited solicitor/s on recent gifts


Participant Query

  1. Event Registrations missing a linked gift


Action Query 

  1. Actions in the database are not assigned to a fundraiser


Q: What donor management software maintenance tasks should not be overlooked?

A: The sometimes-dull tasks like merging duplicate donor records, reviewing tables, and reviewing incoming data should never be overlooked. These tasks aid the fundraising team in having accurate data for donor communications.

Relationships management from any supporter base is enhanced by clean data. Correct information from online fundraising, peer-to-peer fundraising, event attendance, and recurring donors ensures more remarkable success.


Q: What tools have helped you most in your own work with nonprofit donor databases?

A: While many tools exist for help with fundraising software, these are my top recommendations.

  • Donor Data Appends—such as Address finder for Blackbaud Raiser’s Edge customers
  • Data Verification—such as Address Accelerator for Blackbaud Raiser’s Edge users or Email Hippo 
  • Power Automate—this is helpful with automating repetitive tasks. (For help with customized automation, check out AutomateGenius.)


Q: What donor data management tasks should be completed in the first months of the new year?

A: One of the first things that should be done in the donor database is gift coding changes. This includes things like turning over campaigns, funds, and appeals to the next year.

Remember to follow the naming conventions within your organization’s policies and procedures. For example, if your team has decided to put FY2024 for the year-end appeal, ensure that it is not written FY24 in some places.

Keeping data clean is essential for successful nonprofit fundraising. Data is the building block for strong donor communications and strong donor relationships.


Take time today to think about how your team can improve your donor management system. Clean data can help create strong relationships and a more personalized donor experience.

It can also help your team hit your fundraising goals and ensure support for your organization’s mission. Not all teams have a data expert like Austen. Keep her list of 20 weekly queries handy and check out the entire webinar Cleaning Your Donor Database – A Practical, Step-By-Step Guide – AskGenius.

To learn about fundraising tools for using donor data to improve fundraising, visit for more insights.


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