Data Health 101 Keeping your CRM Fit for the Summer
Fundraising Published Date, 2023

Data Health 101: Keeping Your CRM Fit For The Summer

Created By: Abby Carlson
June 27, 2023

As fiscal years end, schools are no longer in session, and work begins to lighten in the summer, it presents the perfect time to get your CRM back into good shape! Customer relationship management tools (CRMs) are helpful systems that track and utilize your data to help boost fundraising strategy. However, like a car or a home, a CRM can get “messy” without the proper care and cleanup. So, during the less busy weeks at the office, it’s worthwhile for your fundraisers and CRM users to turn their attention to your organization’s data health.

What is “data health”?

Data health depicts the quality and capability of your data to support your organization’s fundraising goals. Data is characterized as “healthy” if it is available to your organization, clear in its depiction, and valuable to you and your teammates.  

Messy data is inevitable. With your users manipulating data daily, as well as your integrations pushing new data into the system, your data can become more and more unreliable the longer you wait. Some common cases of messy or unhealthy data include:

  • Typos
  • Duplicate records
  • Non-standardized formatting – “Closed Won” vs. “Closed won” vs. “Awarded” vs. “Received”
  • Missing data
  • Outdated or inaccurate data

At Orr Group, we recommend that organizations regularly review and assess the health of their data, as well as make it a priority to uphold data cleanliness standards continuously throughout the year (at least once a quarter). Below is a list of data-minded strategies to ensure your CRM is spick and span.

Tackling Duplicates

Duplicates can cause confusion and affect reporting and fundraising metrics. While duplicates are for the most part inevitable, here are several approaches to ensure duplicates do not become a major problem.

  1. Understand your “matching rules”. What fields or information does your CRM utilize to automatically identify and merge duplicate records? This will most likely contain a combination of name, address, email address, phone number, etc. Once you understand your matching rules, you can ensure that you are inputting enough information needed for your CRM to merge duplicates as new records are created.
  2. Identify sources of incoming data. Where are most of your new records coming from? For most organizations, the source of new records comes from integrated forms that input new leads, such as online donation forms, contact us forms, sign-up forms, etc. Are these forms gathering enough information to trigger your CRM’s matching rules? Additionally, ensure users are inputting enough information when new records are added manually.
  3. Always de-dupe before large uploads of data. Before any mass uploads of data, ensure your team does a thorough review and de-duplication to ensure they are not adding duplicate records. Most CRMs’ matching rules do not apply to mass uploads.
  4. Optimize any duplicate merging tools. Many CRMs have internal duplicate merging tools that can identify possible duplicate records and allow you to review and merge with a click of a button. Additionally, there are various integrated duplicate matching tools that can be linked to your system and provide another layer of detection. Schedule time with your users, and especially your frontline fundraisers, to monitor the system with these tools and regularly set aside time to merge duplicates.

Updating the Outdated

People change. They move, switch jobs, join and roll off boards, and much more. With all these changes, important information can quickly become outdated. It’s important to keep a pulse on these changes to ensure your team is effectively engaging your constituents. Here’s how we suggest staying in the loop.

  1. Incorporate an NCOA every 1-2 years. An NCOA is a “national change of address” that captures an updated list of your constituents’ new mailing addresses should they move. Every 1-2 years, submit an NCOA report to identify any address changes in your database. This is especially crucial to do before a major mailing appeal. Some direct mail houses can include an NCOA before each mailing at an additional cost. Additionally, NCOAs typically capture any individuals who have passed away or changed names.
  2. Utilize wealth screening and relationship mapping tools. Many of these tools provide contact information, as well as updated employment and board information.
  3. Lean on your marketing and email platform for identifying inactive emails. Your email and marketing system should be integrated or managed natively in your database. When your system identifies inactive or bounced email addresses, update your records and see if there has been a change in employment (i.e., if it’s a bounced work email).
  4. Equip your fundraisers to identify changes in their portfolio. Your fundraisers are the ones who are the closest to your constituents. Ensure they are prepared to update the database as soon as they are alerted of changes from their constituents, such as employment, address, name changes, salutations changes, etc. Your fundraisers should take personal ownership of the cleanliness of their constituent’s data in the CRM.

Note that certain outdated information, such as past employment and past board memberships, can be helpful for your fundraisers to identify common networks and possible key introductions to other funders (as these connections may still be strong). In these instances, it is helpful to keep this information in the system but note the employment or board membership as “Former” or “Past”.

Monitor the Manual

Errors and outdated information can come from manual entry from your users. Set up your database to ensure there is standardization and systems that can help guide your users to upload clean data.

  1. Incorporate a practice of always double-checking the database before creating new entries (contact records, gift records, etc.).
  2. Utilize drop-down fields in place of text fields when applicable and appropriate – this will be helpful in regulating the data in certain fields that utilize similar answers. Drop-down fields also mitigate typos in the system and help standardize reporting.
  3. Consider setting up required fields for vital data needed. For any fields that are vital for fundraising, consider making the fields required so that all users must include the data when adding new records.
  4. Create and monitor reports that can highlight any manual entry inaccuracies. Reports can highlight any records that were entered in the last week, month, quarter, etc. that have manual entry inaccuracies, such as typos or missing information. Lean on your fundraisers to monitor the information they entered. Reach out to any users that may need additional training or assistance with your CRM.

When Data Goes Missing

Data is power. Missing information can create obstacles if your fundraisers are not able to pull the information they need to fundraise and engage your constituents. Additionally, missing information (such as contact information) can cause a barrier for your CRM’s duplicate matching tool to catch possible duplicate records.

  1. Audit your database fields to assess any re-prioritization of fields. Which fields are imperative to your organization? Which fields are not needed and rarely used? Are these fields causing a distraction for users when entering new data? Go through your data and identify the fields that are vital for your organization and ensure measures are in place to guide users to enter data in these fields. Remove or deactivate any fields that are of no use or a distraction for your users.
  2. Review data coming from external sources. Online donation forms and other integrations may be entering new records into your CRM daily. Ensure these systems are pulling enough information into your system, such as contact information.
  3. Utilize required fields for certain vital information. Help remind your users of the information needed to upload new data!
  4. Create and monitor reports that can highlight any records that contain blank information. Find the sources of the missing information and adjust any processes to ensure you’re inputting valuable data for your fundraisers.

In short, healthy data standards are pivotal practices that can affect an organization’s fundraising success. We recommend that development departments draft and maintain standard operating procedures (SOP) for their CRM that includes data cleaning processes such as the strategies listed above.

Looking for more resources on maintaining a clean, healthy, useful database? Abby Carlson recently joined Bloomerang’s webinar series on spring ‘data’ cleaning for your organization. Access the recording below!

Abby Carlson is a Director and Head of Data Analytics and Management at Orr Group. She specializes in CRM management and assists Orr Group’s partners to implement, customize, and optimize fundraising database platforms to establish efficiency in systems and maximize donor pipeline potential. 

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