Hopefully, if you’re reading this post, then we don’t have any more work to do in convincing you that data is important. (If you’re still on the fence, read our blog post on the importance of fundraising data!). But, in order to make sure that your data is doing the work that you need it to do, you have to prioritize keeping it clean.

Here are three core principles to keep in mind as you set your internal processes for data hygiene:

  1. Use a CRM (Customer/Constituent Relationship Management platform) – there are a number of great tools on the market ranging from free web-based platforms, to low-cost options with high levels of customer service, to comprehensive, customizable software packages that require an in-house staff member to manage. If you’re fundraising for a brand new or small organization with just a handful of constituents to manage, you could even use an excel spreadsheet. Regardless, step number one is to get the data out of your head, and out of your inbox, and into an organizing tool that makes sense for you.
  2. Create uniform conventions for naming (and tagging, and filing) – This is especially important if there are multiple people entering information into your CRM! Make sure that your entire team is on the same page about how addresses need to be written, where and how honorifics (such as Mr., Ms., Dr., Council Member, etc) need to be added, as well as what tags and campaigns are associated with specific donors and gifts. Making sure the information is clear when it is uploaded in the first place will save you lots of headaches on the back end when you need to start pulling reports.
  3. Empower everyone on your team to participate – whether you are a major gifts officer who is hearing first-hand the details surrounding a donor’s life change, or the administrator receiving mail that is returned to sender due to a bad address, you probably have donor information that needs to be updated in your database. Empowering everyone to help keep your data clean and up to date in real time.

    The one caveat to this approach is that there should still be a person on your team who is primarily responsible for the management of the CRM, to ensure that you don’t suffer from a diffusion of responsibility for your data!