Unclutter Your Data

| by Ilona Sher

When the calendar signals the beginning of autumn and the weather starts to get a little cooler I start to think about changing out my closets. Time to put away the summer skirts and strappy sandals and bring out the sweaters and pants. But the experts say we shouldn’t put everything away for next year; we can unclutter our closets by giving away clothes we haven’t worn in more than one year. Make room for what works and fits and makes us feel good and eliminate the bad colors and sizes and styles.

What about databases? Can they be uncluttered? Do you have old and unused data clogging your database?

Here are 5 reasons why your data may need to go:

1. Data changes. The average American moves once every five years and 30% of e-mail subscribers change their e-mail addresses annually. (http://www.convinceandconvert.com/convince-convert/15-email-statistics-that-are-shaping-the-future/). Your donors’ life events result in your data being out-of-date.

2. Data entry may be inconsistent. Well-meaning volunteers may be adding new members directly to your database at the big annual event. That’s great – you will have a larger mailing list and maybe more donors. But how good is the data they entered? How many different ways have they entered Street/St. or Bill/William/Will or forgotten to ask for e-mail addresses?

3. Too many systems. Chances are you have donor data in many places, including spreadsheets, a donor database, e-mail inboxes, and maybe paper piles on someone’s desk. There is no single place to find the data you need when you need it. You cannot rely on any one source because there are too many sources.

4. Too much data. How many years of data are you maintaining? Do you really look at donor data from 4 or 5 years ago? The data you collected more than 3 years ago is probably unreliable and cluttering your reports and systems.

5. Lack of data security. Do you share passwords to your donor database? Are there system rules that prevent someone from deleting or changing donor data? Mistakes happen and unintended data changes can be devastating and result in unusable information.

Unclutter your data by instituting data governance - take the time to develop and follow some rules and policies. Improve your data and your organization’s engagement, fundraising, outreach and success!

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