By Gregory Duke, bCRE-PRO
While data cleanup and integrity are always important, the timing of focusing on it during the fall season might seem curious. October—and the last three months of the year in general—is typically a particularly busy time for non-profits.
This is the season for sending holiday event invitations to our top prospects and preparing end-of-year mailing lists for nearly everyone in our database. Who has time in this season to perform any data auditing or cleanup?
Since data is constantly being added to and changed in our databases, data integrity is an ongoing concern—even in the fourth quarter of the year. But since we also don’t have as much time to enforce that data integrity (as if we do in the other quarters of the year!), it’s imperative that we make the most of that time.
There are only two ways to do more with less time when it comes to data cleanup and integrity.
The first is to prioritize data cleanup that will most improve your organization’s fundraising activities. In previous Water Cooler Chats, I have emphasized cleaning up data that reaches your external audience or allows you to reach your external audience (especially contact information such as name, address, addressee/salutation, phone number, email address).
In a recent Water Cooler Chat, I discussed topics such as fixing foreign and non-alphanumeric characters in names and addresses deformed by file formats, rebuilding corrupt email addresses with a simple find-and-replace method, and identifying misspelled city and street names.
By prioritizing the data which your constituents can see—and which is most important to them—you can turn Murphy’s Law on its head by doing 90% of the important work in 10% of the time!
Speed Up the Process
The other way to do more with less time is to speed up the process of data cleanup. One thing I’ve learned over the past few years is to identify the more efficient process between building an import process, or to do the data cleanup manually in the database.
A good rule of thumb is that if you have fewer than 20 records to change in your database—or if there are fewer than about 40 or 50 records with only a single, similar issue to change—fixing or updating the records manually will be faster. Most CRMs will allow you to create a query of the records you will need to change and will allow you to select or scroll through the records in the query: this saves you time in opening each record.
Another way to speed up data cleanup is to export the data fields you want to review (for example, city names or street addresses) into Excel. By using a filter such as the column filter under the Data tab or the many filters in a Pivot Table, incorrect and misspelled names will stand out in your data, allowing you to filter for the records which need correction.
At Staupell Analytics Group, we help our clients audit their databases, identify data errors and database structural issues, and enforce data integrity. We also help clients prepare their data for database migration or changes to their CRM products. Contact us today.