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4 Easy Tips to Jumpstart your Donor Data Cleanup

CaptureThe annual appeal sent to a home where the donor contact is recently deceased. The call made to the prospective major donor … who just spoke with someone on your fundraising team last week (and told him no). The volumes of direct mail pieces sent out with no response.

If these things have happened to you, you’ve probably been a victim of dirty data. And, simply put, bad data is a waste of your organization’s precious time and money.

The case for data hygiene is clear, but daily maintenance of donor information can feel like a never-ending chore. Dun & Bradstreet reports in its NetProspex State of Marketing Data Report that data decays at an average rate of 2 percent per month, meaning you can expect 25 to 30 percent of your organization’s contact data to go bad each year under normal circumstances.

How can you stay on top of the game? It’s not too late to start fresh with a little Spring Cleaning! Reviewing your donor data quality can help get your database in tip-top shape well in advance of fundraising season. Here are four easy steps to help you get started:

  1. Consolidate Duplicate Records

Duplicate records weighing your database down? It’s easy to understand how duplicate records make their way into your donor data – maybe a constituent changes her name upon getting married or signs up on your site multiple times under different email accounts. Third-party companies offer data services and tools to help you consolidate these problem contacts on a large scale basis. But, just as important as the actual process of removing duplicate records are the standards to put in place to keep it from happening again. Standardize how data is entered. For example, acme incorporated and Acme Inc. would produce individual records but are the same organization. Standardizing how names and addresses are handled can save a lot of headaches down the road.

  1. Update Addresses

With duplicates removed, it’s time to start making sure the records you do have are accurate. Addresses are an easy place to start. According to the US Census, more than 15 percent of Americans, or roughly 35 million people, move annually – some of us more frequently than that. Our family has moved three times in the last 12 months and each time I’ve opened my new mailbox to discover handfuls of appeals and newsletters addressed to the previous resident. Think of all the dollars wasted and missed opportunities!

Screening your database through proactive services like NCOA and DeceasedRecordFinder is much more cost and time efficient rather than researching manually via Google and/or personal directory websites.

  1. Update Employment Information

Did you know that, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the average person will hold 11 jobs from the ages of 18 to 44. And, according to Dun & Bradstreet:

  • A new business opens every minute
  • A new business files for bankruptcy every 8 minutes
  • A business closes every 3 minutes
  • A CEO changes every minute
  • A company name change occurs every 2 minutes

Unfortunately, there is no change-of-address system for business contacts and companies. Roles and employee data are often the most difficult information to keep up-to-date. Revising these records is going to be a manual exercise. The key to making it easy? Segmentation. Understand and identify your high-value business contacts – maybe those who sponsor your events or provide volunteers as part of a corporate service day initiative.

  1. Purge

You’ve consolidated records, updated addresses, and refreshed company data. Next comes the final step, the purge. Recommendations on how long to keep contacts in your database vary but everyone agrees there’s no reason to keep investing in marketing to a donor who isn’t interested in your programs or mission. If you’re a large organization with an aggressive outreach program and a lot of resources, consider removing stale contacts after 24 months. Higher touch organization with larger gifts? It’s understandable that you’ll want to work those leads a little longer and a period of 60 months may be appropriate. But, regardless of your size or mission, five years or more of not connecting with a potential donor is too long – at that point it’s time to move on.

The benefits of clean data are many, including lower marketing costs, increased response rates, and an overall improvement in constituent engagement. With a little time and some elbow grease, these four steps can increase the return on your outreach and development efforts in the important months ahead.

Capture A recognized leader in web-based products, Amanda Myers brings 20 years of experience to her role as Senior Product Marketing Manager with Austin-based Abila. Her broad background includes developing highly effective national campaigns, online tools, and Super Bowl ads for household brands including Sears, Land’s End, Enfamil, Marvel, and Samsung. The last five years have seen Myers leverage this expertise to empower thousands of nonprofits to drive similar levels of success with a strong focus on helping leaders optimize their donor data, online fundraising, and mobile channels for exceptional results.

Topics: Nonprofit Leadership and Practice