By Marijana Radić Boone • December 17, 2021

    GRAVYTY FUNDRAISING ACADEMY: Your New Year's Resolution? Data Cleanup

    GRAVYTY FUNDRAISING ACADEMYThis post comes from the Gravyty Fundraising Academy, a series that examines how fundraisers adapt and strategize to evolve what's possible through philanthropy.

    marijana boone CIRCLEYour guide for the Gravyty Fundraising Academy is Director of Data Solutions & Implementations, Marijana Radić Boone. Marijana's career has been built on helping mission-driven organizations use technology to achieve new levels of success. A former Gravyty customer, Marijana understands first-hand how artificial intelligence transforms what's possible in fundraising.


    Put Data Cleanup at the Top of Your New Year’s Resolutions List

    Managing a CRM database is a complex task, and ensuring that data within it is useful and clean is a must. It doesn’t help that, when it comes to constituent data, the philosophy has always been that more is better - the more data you have on someone and the more communications you’ve captured, the better you’ll be able to relate to them, and the less institutional memory will get lost in staff transitions. As data has become less expensive and more available, there is also a proliferation of data acquired through so-called data append services. In order to make sense of all this information, it is critical for the data to be captured in a uniform way across all records. If they’re not, it becomes “garbage” in the CRM and begets “garbage” in your work process.

    Fundraising Academy Data Cleanup

    Whether you’ve inherited a database with this type of garbage in it or it’s just piled up while you were busy doing the million other tasks that are part of your duty set, data cleanup should likely be at the top of your list of new year’s resolutions. 

    If you’re not sure where to focus your efforts, I suggest the following 4 areas to get you started:

    Constituency codes

    If you cannot easily identify your main constituencies, this will have cascading effects on everything you do - from data pulls that support solicitation to reporting to sending data to third-party service providers. If you have a lack of data in this regard or too many competing entries, this is probably the most valuable starting point for your data cleanup. You may need to get the team together and agree on a handful of codes you should use to group constituents as these become the basis of all you do (consider aligning them to your own internal reporting needs or those frequently requested by funders, for example).

    Join 30,000+ fundraising professionals that receive our weekly Sunday newsletter with industry trends, tips, and analysis delivered right to your inbox

    Contact information (phone numbers, email addresses, physical addresses)

    Just think of the time that is wasted if your team has to stop every time they open a record and review notes to determine which phone number to use or you cannot trust your export of email addresses you want to send to your digital outreach vendor, so you send it to the team for review. Everything you do to achieve your fundraising goals rests on not only the accuracy but also the ease of access to these crucial data points, so:
      1. Apply consistent tags and labels, such as “Personal” and “Business,” for each of these fields, and don’t overdo it with choices (are you ever going to call someone while they’re vacationing at their in-laws’ beach house? If not, just call it “Other”)
      2. Identify the preferred number/address for each record - this should always be based on your constituent’s expressed preference, but, lacking that, could also be based on your business policy (i.e. always send a solicitation to Home) 


    Campaign, fund, appeal, and package information

    Ask yourself (or your development leadership and colleagues) what metrics and reports you need to run to set strategy and evaluate progress toward goals. Can you pull (and trust) reports without manual manipulation? If your annual giving program is unable to evaluate the effectiveness of each channel’s performance, appeal and package cleanup is in order. 

    Duplicate records

    Whether you’re sending a direct mail piece or reaching out to your donors through digital channels, you want to have a complete picture of their engagement and giving history and not irritate them by reaching out multiple times with the same message. This becomes more important as third-party services most likely manage this process and don’t know your donors as well as you do so will not necessarily be able to eyeball the list and notice this. Build a process for merging and purging duplicate records into every data pull to minimize the effort during your annual cleanup. 

    Managing data in a CRM has become standard practice, but data are only as useful as your ability to access them in an organized manner, and in a way that helps inform business decisions and fuel your processes. Consistency and standards in data entry, as well as a regular process of reviewing and correcting data that is not consistent with those standards, can save you time and money in the long run. Moreover, as automation and AI become more commonplace in the nonprofit industry, this discipline will make you better prepared to take advantage of such tools and services. 

    If you’d like to learn more about how artificial intelligence can empower your organization to have a culture of philanthropy, personally reach new donors, and inspire giving at scale, connect with Gravyty today.

    Posts by Topic

    see all