For most nonprofits, addressing attrition is the key to growing a healthy active list. Most also recognize the need to generate growth in new donors. Making sure the data your organization has is working the way it should can address both needs and translate to better results. And, no, your data doesn't have to be “big.” You can make use of data already in your systems to encourage growth.
#1: Tighten Up Data ManagementData management is the administrative process by which your organization acquires, validates, stores, protects and processes the data it needs. The result of good data management is data that’s accessible, reliable, timely and accurate enough to satisfy the needs of anyone who uses it.
If your data is not satisfying everyone—if it, in fact, gives people heartburn—try a few of these tactics to tighten up your data management.
- Most important and a best practice: Merge all your databases--donor, volunteer and event, even shadow--into one main list. Also, integrate your online database, if you have one. So many benefits here: If someone makes a change (e.g., snowbirds indicate their preferred seasonal addresses), everyone has access to the information. Incorrect data due to double entries decreases. Any information captured online immediately appears in the main database. The list goes on.
- Standardize how you collect data. First, determine what donor and prospect information is required when a record enters the system, whether by manual entry or online capture. Also, require the use of USPS-standard address formats. A further step is to expand your data collection to include information you might not currently store, such as mail records that show appeals, responses to appeals or giving channel breakdowns.
- Standardized your workflows. Adopt and communicate a consistent way to code information, and build that into your system. For instance, make mandatory certain information (say, source codes showing where donors come from) so that anyone who adds a record into the system has no choice but to enter the info.
- Implement a National Change of Address (NCOA) and/or “new move list” service (from companies like SofTrek partner Melissa Data) to ensure that current addresses are always available even on inactive donors. Since U.S. Census Bureau statistics indicate around 15% of people change addresses in a year, this move alone could greatly increase the quality of your contact data.
Next: Thoughtful list analysis