We were excited to hear from Amanda Jarman, President of Fundraising Nerd, last week for the third webinar in our Fundraising Technology and Strategy Series. Amanda hosted a webinar titled: “Data Hygiene Before and After Screening” and she discussed how to identify and prioritize data hygiene problems; data enhancement options; what you can do in house to get your data clean and keep it clean; and how to build buy-in for your efforts.
You can watch the webinar recording here, or check out some of the Q&A’s from the presentation below:
Q: I’ve decided I want to buy several types of data. Where should I start?
AJ: Always start with your address data. Run National Change Of Address (NCOA) if you have not yet. Do any other address data cleanups you intend, e.g. a lost constituent finder or reverse email address append. If you have the budget to do all of your data purchases at once, you may work with one vendor for everything. Just make sure they run any address screenings you are doing first, so those newly found records can be included in your other appends.
Q: How do I convince my boss that this is important?
AJ: Start with “why” (and check out Simon Sinek for great resources on how to do this): what impact on donor stewardship or fundraising effectiveness will this have? If possible, do some analysis to back up your case. For example, let’s say you want to do an email append. If you know your standard response rate for email solicitations, and your average gift, you could calculate your expected short term return on adding new email addresses to your database. Your pitch to your boss would be, “We could raise more money via email if we had more email addresses for our constituents. Currently, we have email addresses for X% of our donors. If we acquire email addresses for another Y%, then we could likely raise $Z.”
Q: I already did my screening, and I didn’t clean up my addresses first. What should I do now?
AJ: The good news is that it’s highly likely that your screening still uncovered viable major gift prospects, and you have an exciting list to work with! You may still wish to rescreen some of your prospects after working on address quality. If you already have a great list of major gift prospects, then just focus on making sure none of your best donors were missed. Your best donors are those who have given you the most money and have also given to you recently. Take a look at anyone who has high cumulative giving and has given within the last two fiscal years who was excluded from screening due to a bad or missing address. Once you correct your addresses, you can rescreen them, either as a batch or one at a time, depending on how long the list is. If your address quality was a significant issue that resulted in a lot of records going unmatched, then you may decide to rescreen a larger portion of your prospect pool after correcting your addresses.
Q: In your experience, how are duplicates managed, manually, or electronically? Can you talk about this?
AJ: It depends! Some databases have strong built-in duplicate detection tools. These tools scan your database for matching identity information, e.g. same last name and same address; same email address; same phone number; etc. You can generally select which elements to match on. In general, you’ll want to start with a “tighter” match, i.e. one that is most likely to turn up actual duplicate records rather than false positives. For example, matching on email address is pretty likely to yield you duplicate records, whereas matching on last name and same address will yield both duplicates and non-duplicates, i.e. family members who live at the same address. Your database should display the duplicate records side-by-side, allowing you to choose which biographical data elements to preserve (e.g. phone number, email, address, salutation, etc.) in the surviving record. That is your best option because your database will automatically migrate gift information to the surviving record.
If your database does not have a deduplicating tool, or it is not strong, then you may need to move into Excel. With Excel, you’ll write your own formulas to match on identity elements, using the same strategy of moving from the tightest match to looser matches. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for some ideas on where to start with this. The disadvantage to deduplicating externally from your database is that you will likely need to manually merge records, taking great care to preserve the most accurate biographical data and to ensure that all gifts are migrated to the surviving record.
Q: Are past work addresses an effective data point for finding lost constituents via a vendor?
AJ: Generally, the consumer databases used to find lost constituents are tied to residential addresses, rather than to work addresses. That said, when you are doing your vendor research, it would be worthwhile to ask. I am constantly amazed at how quickly this space evolves!
Q: Have you found that having an internal data review session helps in the long run for new data entry users?
AJ: Yes! The more training and documentation you can provide, the better. Require training for anyone using your database, and particularly for staff doing data entry. Ideally, do hands-on training where staff can use their computers to follow along with a trainer. This combination of hands-on (kinesthetic), verbal and visual learning is a good way to engage a variety of learning styles. Be sure to provide thorough documentation as well: step by step instructions on how to do data entry processes. You will also want to document your standards (e.g. what does a formal salutation look like; what is your policy on giving soft/recognition credit to donors; etc.)
Watch the full webinar “Data Hygiene Before and After Screening” here.