The summer is often a time for fundraising organizations to review their strengths and weaknesses, and to improve their tools, for the upcoming fiscal year. One of the most popular targets for this improvement is the organization’s database, as the database affects all aspects of fundraising activity. If your shop is considering a review of its database effectiveness—a process which is popularly called a data audit—there are three principles that will help guide the course of your work.
A data audit isn’t meant to make your database perfect
Realistically, no database will ever be “perfect”. Databases are living documents which change from day to day.
In shops where many personnel have access to the database, it might be difficult to enforce normalization of data entry. Trying to clean your database to the point where it becomes “perfect” might prove an impossible task.
Remember the corollary to Murphy’s Law: *The first 90% of a project takes 90% of the time, and the last 10% takes the other 90% of the time.*
It’s certainly more efficient to concentrate on the 90% which will take up less time, especially as you can prioritize the 90% which will make the biggest impact on your database.
Prioritize front-facing changes
Even if you have time to only fix a small percentage of your database’s issues, you can make a big impact if you concentrate on updates that affect your “front-facing activities”— the parts of your database which touch your constituents.
These include addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, and other types of electronic contact, as well as gift reporting and other types of reports that your donors might see (for example, the honor roll).
This is not to say that other parts of your database are not important; however, if your time is limited, consider starting with what donors might see.
Prioritize “pain reports”
Do you often hear that it is difficult to run a commonly-needed report? Or do you find that you have to constantly repair weekly or monthly reports post-production?
Data audits are often a good opportunity to fix the underlying issues involving these problems. Consider a weekly report where you need to delete one or more records after the report is run because “those gifts aren’t supposed to count in this report”.
Instead of repeating this task (or running the risk of forgetting to delete the gifts), change the report criteria to ensure that those gifts are not part of the report. You may have to negotiate the changes with other stakeholders, but the time and anguish saved will be worth it!
In conclusion, a data audit is an essential process for any fundraising organization looking to improve its database effectiveness. By following the three principles outlined above, you can make the most of your time and resources, and focus on the areas that will have the biggest impact on your fundraising activities.
Learn Auditing Techniques to Rate Your Campaign Efficiency | July 11, 2023 Water Cooler Chat