Handle your donor’s data with care
Genn Stephen, Fundraising Systems Consultant, Blackbaud Pacific
Without good data your whole fundraising strategy falls down: How can you report on your fundraising success if you can’t figure out which gifts have been paid? How can you accurately segment your donors if everyone records information differently? Without good data it is impossible to manage donor relationships effectively.
For me, good data is embodied by the following qualities:
My surname is Stephen, not Stephens as people regularly record. Each time I see ‘Miss Stephens’ in a letter or email I automatically assume that I am not a valued as a person to that organisation, as they haven’t taken the time to record my information correctly.
If someone is marked as being ‘temporarily away’, when was that information recorded? How long are they away for? Do you have a procedure in place for reactivating that record, or will they be ‘temporarily away’ forever?
When an individual opts out of a particular mailing, do you have a procedure which clearly states how this should be recorded? Does everyone follow this procedure? Do you have one definitive place in the database where this is shown? If you answered no to any or all of the above, you’re likely to have problems with mailing constituents against their wishes which is a breach of the FINZ Standard of Direct Mail Fundraising Practice.
You should think about why you are collecting the information and what the purpose of it is. Make sure that when you record the data it is easy to understand what it is relating to.
E.g. Dietary Preference: Vegetarian = GOOD
Dietary Preference: Yes = BAD (what kind of preference do they have?)
Records on your system should hold a complete view of a constituent’s association with your organisation including: personal details, solicitation preferences, donation information, etc. Data completeness can be facilitated by providing training to data entry staff and using enforcers on the software to prevent records from being saved without all the required information. Record completeness should be monitored by regular checking processes such as queries and reports.
The true value of a database comes from being able to draw conclusions and make decisions based on the information you have gathered. If your data is recorded in such a manner which makes this extremely difficult or impossible (e.g. regular use of free text over drop down lists), then you are wasting the power of your database.
Whilst it can be sometimes hard to get high level buy in, allotting time and resources to data hygiene projects and training is an integral part of your organisation and cannot be ignored. Your data is the intellectual property and backbone of your organisation; it should be a top priority to protect, maintain and invest in both your data and database.