A constituent relationship management (CRM) system is the backbone of your nonprofit’s operations, housing vital information about donors, volunteers, beneficiaries, and more. However, in order for your CRM to be useful, the data inside of it must be clean and accurate.
In this guide, we’ll explore four best practices for managing and maintaining data. Whether you use Blackbaud, Salesforce, or another CRM provider, these insights will ensure that your database remains an asset to your organization.
1. Schedule Audits and Validations
Start by evaluating the quality and integrity of the data stored in your CRM system. Create a data profile to document the types of data you have, the sources of data, and the issues you’ve identified. Then, take these steps to rectify the errors:
- Remove duplicates. Identify and merge duplicate records to maintain a single, accurate representation of each constituent.
- Update information. Leverage various sources, such as online forms, surveys, and event registrations, to ensure your information is correct and up to date.
- Validate data. Use validation rules to ensure that data, such as email addresses or phone numbers, adhere to specified formats and are accurate.
Most CRMs have automated processes that catch and correct issues as they arise. However, in the event that a mistake goes unnoticed, take the time to monitor and manually clean your database regularly.
2. Standardize Data Entry
Data entry protocols prevent mistakes from happening in the first place, saving your team time that would otherwise be spent on cleanup. This efficiency not only improves the quality of your CRM but also allows your staff to focus on other mission-critical activities.
As you collect data, implement these protocols:
- Create data entry guidelines. Establish guidelines for naming conventions, date formats, and field requirements. For example, when entering phone numbers into your database, you may choose between (123) 456-7890 or 123-456-7890. While a variation between parentheses and dashes may seem insignificant, it can hinder a user’s ability to retrieve records quickly and can lead to inaccurate reporting.
- Use dropdown menus and picklists. Implement dropdown menus, picklists, and predefined values wherever possible in your CRM system to prevent data entry errors. For example, you could create a dropdown menu for donation sources and have users choose between online, check, or cash to minimize variation.
- Integrate data sources. One of the most effective ways to standardize data entry is through integrations. By connecting your CRM with donation platforms, event registration tools, and volunteer management systems, you can automate the transfer of data between systems and reduce manual errors.
In addition to managing how data enters the CRM, consider limiting who has access to the system. Granting authorization to personnel trained in data hygiene best practices will prevent accidental changes, deletions, and corruption.
3. Conduct Data Appends
If your CRM is missing important records, you may benefit from a data append. “Appending data” is the process of using third-party sources to update and add information to your CRM. This information can include:
- Demographic data: Demographic data includes information such as age, gender, marital status, and educational background. Appending demographic data can help nonprofits better understand their donor base and tailor their communication and fundraising strategies accordingly.
- Financial data: Wealth data accounts for assets, real estate ownership, and stock holdings. This information can reveal a donor’s willingness and capacity to give and can prove useful in a major gift campaign.
- Contact information: Append contact information such as phone numbers, email addresses, and social media profiles. Having up-to-date contact details enables nonprofits to reach donors through various communication channels and maintain active engagement.
- Donor history: Enhance donor profiles with data related to past giving history, including donation amounts, frequency of giving, preferred causes or campaigns, and donor behavior trends. This information can help nonprofits tailor fundraising appeals and stewardship efforts more effectively.
While a data append may require an initial investment, it will likely be a valuable expenditure for your nonprofit. With enriched data, you can run targeted campaigns, improve outreach, and build stronger relationships with donors.
4. Train Staff and Volunteers
Training is an important aspect of CRM hygiene as it ensures that staff and volunteers understand the importance of clean and accurate data. To create a comprehensive training program, provide:
- Hands-on workshops and exercises: Organize hands-on workshops or training sessions where staff can practice data hygiene tasks in a controlled environment. Encourage them to identify errors, clean sample data, and enter information according to your guidelines.
- Ongoing support and resources: Provide ongoing support and resources for staff members to reference after training. This can take the form of a knowledge-sharing platform where staff can discuss data hygiene challenges, share best practices, and learn from each other’s experiences.
If you lack the technical expertise to lead these training sessions, consider working with a nonprofit consultant who specializes in CRMs. They will get to know your nonprofit’s unique data management needs and ensure that each staff member receives the training they need to administer the database effectively.
Remember that cleaning your database is not a one-time event but an ongoing process. Revisit and reinforce these data hygiene best practices to ensure that staff members consistently follow them. With a clean and accurate CRM, your nonprofit will be well-positioned to drive positive change in the communities you serve.