The Case for Fundraising Data, and How to Keep It Clean

Keeping your data clean can be like flossing. You know you should do it, but the benefits are not always short term and it can too easily fall to the bottom of your priority list. However, keeping your data clean can be so important to your fundraising process over the course of the year that we’re here to make the case that it should be the one New Year’s Resolution that you don’t let go by the wayside.

Need some motivation? Think of it this way:

  1. Keeping your data clean will help you prevent embarrassing snafus such as contacting a divorced donor using their former married name, reaching out to a deceased person, or inviting an incorrect foundation staff member or trustee to an event.

  2. Keeping your data clean will streamline the donor research process, helping you more quickly identify donors who are ready for an ask, for renewal or an increase.

  3. Keeping your data clean will save you the headache of transferring information from your outgoing development staffer’s brain to your new hire’s notes in the little or no overlap time between the two employees.

Keeping up with information changes and additions can be time consuming, but we have a few ideas for keeping the process streamlined and your data up to date!

Make it somebody’s responsibility. Choose one person on your team who will manage updating donor profiles and direct everyone else to funnel the changes through that person. If that doesn’t work for the rest of your workflow, you can split it up by area – one person manages foundation profiles, one person manages members or patrons, one person manages smaller donors, etc.

Make it a regular task and stick to it. If it isn’t feasible to put one person primarily in charge of your database all day long, then make sure you’re keeping track of changes to donor profiles (names, email addresses, mailing addresses, etc) and setting aside time daily or weekly to make the updates. Putting even a half-hour on the calendar that you’re not allowing yourself to get pulled into other work may be all the focused time you need!

Don’t Forget Your Communications and Sales Data. Although it may not be stored automatically in your donor database, your communications and sales data can play a very important role in assessing someone’s readiness to be asked for a gift. For instance, are they opening your emails? Are they buying tickets to your events or other services? If you’re operating out of two databases, make sure the information is getting shared between them (even if it’s manually). Find out that a donor has a new email address? Update it on your marketing list. Likewise, when a donor purchases a ticket to a performance or event through a marketing email, you’ll need that information for your donor records as well.

As with most of the recommendations that we make, we appreciate that there is some extra work involved in this process. But, if you put in the time deliberately and consistently, the payoff could be huge.