Jay Love is a guest contributor for Nonprofit Hub. He’s currently the CEO and Co-Founder of Bloomerang and the Senior Vice President of Avectra—both organizations serving the nonprofit sector with cutting edge technology tools for fundraising and communications.
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Whether it is your car, your desk or even your backpack, the tidier they are kept the more efficiently you can use them. If a mess accumulates, a normally useful workspace or set of tools becomes hard to use—or worse yet, a detriment.

We see this happen often within donor databases and nonprofit CRMs. It is never on purpose and tends to happen in spurts over time. A clutter-free and efficient migration of data into your new database is a great start, but all of that hard work will be for naught if that environment is not kept intact going forward.

There are three common reasons why data in a donor database can go bad:

1. Lack of Basic Policies and Procedures

Without guidelines in place, software usage can quickly veer off course. Each and every technology vendor or fundraising consultant should be able to help create basic policies and procedures for maintaining a donor database. It can be as simple as a page or two, and might include guidelines such as:

  • Only allowing drop-down field options versus user fill-ins.

  • Designating why and who can add new fields and field options.

  • Only adding fields when it has been proven there is no other current manner to obtain the data or report needed.

  • How to properly mark “unsubscribes” and “do not mails.”

  • How and when communications from the system will be handled.

  • Are all notes from prospect and donor conversations to be added and how.

  • How are filters and queries added and which ones are kept.

  • What reports are truly required.

  • Does data come in directly from the web site and how.

  • How often are addresses, phone numbers and emails cleaned.

Deviating from any of the above items can throw your data off. Luckily, all of them are easy to mitigate if performed properly from the beginning!

If the organization executives use the system, the need for and continued usage of basic policies and procedures seem to be better maintained!

2. Lack of Use

Sporadic or infrequent use leads to the formation of bad habits. Like anything in life, if you only do it once in a great while, proficiency wanes.

Take, for example, the issue of interactions. Recording thorough notes for each constituent interaction, online and offline, is absolutely critical, especially when it comes to major gifts and legacy giving.

If someone in your organization has an in-person conversation with a potential donor, highlights of the dialogue must be captured in the donor database. Email exchanges should be noted in their entirety.

All too often, what happens is these notes don’t make it into the database. Instead, they’re scribbled on a notepad or saved electronically elsewhere. Having this valuable information stored in one location ensures that multiple fundraisers in your organization can access them when needed.

3. Lack of Staff Training

One of the single greatest causes of data corruption is a lack of training. When the person responsible for maintaining the donor database exits that position and a new person steps in, changes in how data is entered and administered can occur, often resulting in a virtually non-usable system.

This issue is further exacerbated if no policies and procedures are in place. It can be almost impossible to untangle certain usage styles and quirks. The supposed budget dollars saved in training costs are often erased many times over if a major donor is upset or ignored.

With all three of the above issues eliminated you, will have an efficient and indispensable fundraising tool!

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Jay B. Love currently serves as both CEO and Co-Founder of Bloomerang and Senior Vice President of Avectra. Both organizations serve the non-profit sector only with cutting edge technology tools for fundraising and communications. Jay has also held integral positions with Social Solutions, Blackbaud, Master Software Corporation and was the CEO and Co-Founder of eTapestry.