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6 Simple Ways to Clean Up Your Data for Better Analysis

Jenny Love
Published:  07/14/2020

person typing on computer

Photo from Campaign Creators.

Using data to focus your fundraising efforts saves time and money and allows you to concentrate on the highest-value activities. However, you’ve probably heard the saying “garbage in, garbage out.” Even the best data analysis will fall flat if the data you are analyzing isn’t up to date and complete.

It may not be flashy, but data hygiene is a fundamental practice. Many fundraising professionals are tackling big goals, including new ones not on your radar a few months ago. That’s why now is a great time to ensure you have the best possible data to guide you on your journey.

Here are six simple things you can start doing today to clean up your data and enable the best possible results from data analysis, from Liza Turcotte, a senior principal and solutions engineer at Blackbaud Healthcare Solutions.

1. Update addresses

Fifteen percent of American households move each year, so you need to revise constituent every three months to ensure you stay up to date and prevent wasting money on excess postage. Addresses are useful for direct mail, of course, but they are also important for screening potential donors.

2. Add phone numbers and email addresses

Fewer than half of records in fundraising databases contain phone numbers, and an even smaller percentage include email addresses. Yet people increasingly expect relevancy in the content they consume, and they expect to get those messages in the way they want to receive them. This change means there is a greater to communicate with donors and prospects in more than one way than ever before.

Email in particular is a cost-effective and nimble form of communication. It takes less much less time to get an email out the door than a printed piece, and time really matters in today’s environment when your constituents are looking to you for current information about health care in their community.

Since email often comes with the ability to track how many and which people are engaging with your communications, spending time putting email addresses into your database is a no-brainer.

3. Remove deceased constituents

Blackbaud estimates that fundraising teams lose an average of $3,200 for every mailing that has not been processed to remove deceased constituents at least once a year. You can accomplish this task by scanning local obituaries, but if you have a large volume of records, working with a vendor may be more efficient.

4. Eliminate duplicate records

Make sure you identify and merge duplicate constituent records to create a single source of truth for each constituent in your database.

5. Track giving history

Keeping good records of donors’ giving history enables you to make informed decisions about how to build relationships and identify donors for new or increased giving through predictive modeling, since past behavior is among the most predictive aspects of future giving.

which are most likely to upgrade or most likely to respond to emails who might consider raising money on our behalf. Just to name some things that come to mind pretty immediately. Some analytics could be really interesting here for just a couple of reasons.

6. Be consistent

Consistency is among the most essential pieces of data hygiene. Be sure to develop standards for when and how information is recorded, updated, and reported on. Put your guidelines in writing, make it clear who is responsible for what, and create an audit schedule to keep everyone on task.

Messy data can be painful. Taking the time to clean up your data now and put processes in place to keep it clean in the future reduces frustration and enables you to have the biggest possible impact on your organization and your community.

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Meet The Author

Jenny Love
Association for Healthcare Philanthropy

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