The Fundraiser’s Guide to a Good Data Hygiene Routine

Think your nonprofit organization’s data hygiene practices are up to par? Riddle me this – can you answer any of the following questions?

  1. How many of your donor records are out of date?
  2. What’s the recommended timeframe for address updates?
  3. How many duplicate records are in your database?
  4. What’s the difference between NCOA and Address Append?
  5. How many of your donor records are missing email addresses?

Poor data quality costs the U.S. economy more than $3.1 trillion each year. And dirty data can be especially harmful to nonprofits in the form of untapped giving potential.

But don’t panic – here’s a rundown of the most impactful data hygiene practices for our nonprofit clients and the best way to get started on a good data hygiene routine.

Postal Addresses
While online and virtual giving continues to rise, the majority of gifts are still received via traditional mail. That’s why up-to-date address information is crucial to your success. On average, 15% of individuals move each year, yet 35% of people fail to update their information through the United States Postal Service’s National Change of Address (NCOA) service. This is why NCOA updates, even when performed routinely, are not enough to fully update your donor database.

Several data hygiene and enhancement tools exist to update address information. AccuData’s address append solution leverages 60+ years of LexisNexis® data to add verified addresses to your donor records. In addition, reverse phone append and reverse email append can add name and address info to a file that contains only a phone number or email address, respectively.

Email Addresses
Email has the highest return on investment of any marketing channel to the tune of $40 for every dollar spent. However, on average, 54% of records in a nonprofit’s database are missing email addresses. That’s a lot of missed opportunity!

To solve for this problem, email verification and email append solutions provide validation and recently used, opt-in email addresses so that your organization can ensure your communications and appeals are being seen by your supporters in their inboxes as well as their mailboxes.

Phone Numbers
Preparing for a phone-a-thon? Chances are likely that 42% of your records are missing phone information. And to stress the importance of updated phone data: 41% of donors still use landlines, and most baby boomers answer voice calls.

There are multiple data hygiene and enhancement services available to update or add important phone information to your database, such as phone verification to ensure you have the correct number on file, phone append to add new phone numbers to your files, and phone type append to indicate the cell and landline numbers you have on file.

Managing deceased supporters in your database is a complex and important task. In the U.S., 2-3% of individuals pass away each year. To prevent wasted resources by sending communications to supporters who have passed and the possibility of perceived insensitivity on the part of the supporter’s loved ones, routine deceased suppression should be conducted as part of your data hygiene routine.

Does your organization maintain multiple databases? Even if you answered ‘no’ – consider the following:

  • National foundations with regional offices
  • Organizations that keep separate alumni and donor databases
  • Healthcare organizations with separate patient and donor databases
  • Multichannel fundraising programs that have multiple inputs for constituent data

For organizations with multiple databases, using a unique identifier/persistent key (like the LexID® that you can obtain with AccuData) for each constituent can find as many as 42% more duplicates than a simple name and address deduplication process.

Good Data Hygiene Routine
The best practices and timeframes for your organization depend on the size and complexity of your donor database(s) and your unique needs. Most schedules include quarterly and annual updates.

What’s Next?
What’s the best way to get started with any of the above? With our free (yes, free!) Data Quality Report. This report will show you how many of the names, postal and email addresses, cell phone and landline numbers, and dates of birth and death can be updated for your donor database.

To get started, contact a data-driven fundraising expert for a free consultation and steps on obtaining your free Data Quality Report!

Wanna know what else we offer to our nonprofit clients?  Visit our nonprofit solutions page.

Written by Gabrielle Perham, MBA