Tidy Data, True Insights: Organize Your Donor’s Data Using a Donor Management System in 3 Steps

June 10, 2022

Imagine opening Spotify one day and all of a sudden, every song and artist name was unrecognizable.

In place of iconic song titles are drab names like Pop Song #7

Or perhaps all the artists who share the name Justin are now amalgamated under a single artist, leaving you wondering, “Am I about to listen to Bieber, Timberlake, Moore…Trudeau?”

A nightmare scenario, to be sure - because how could you ever find what you need? Yet so many charities treat their donor’s data the same way and are inclined to keep it that way because that’s how it’s always been done

However, a digital transformation has occurred and continues to change how charities steward their donors. At a minimum, donors expect a pleasant online experience and personalized communications that provide some sort of value to them. The most challenging part, however, is the continual need to adapt to the changing expectations of their donors.

Naturally, this requires charities to understand their donor’s preferences, behaviours and other characteristics.

And to accurately pull these insights about their donors, charities need clean and organized data. In marketing, we call this data hygiene.

Using the CanadaHelps Donor Management System (DMS), we’ll show charities can easily build data hygiene habits in three steps:

  1. Merge duplicate contacts to centralize the donor’s information under a single profile.
  2. Standardize groups and tags to make searching for specific segments straightforward.
  3. Identify missing data to help ensure all your contact profiles are complete.

1. Merge duplicate contacts

The first step to data hygiene is cleaning up and merging duplicate contacts.

Performing this step first will reduce the amount of time and extra work you put into segmenting your donors or adding, modifying, or updating their information in steps two and three below.

The headache-inducing and hair-pulling nature of duplicate contacts come from the fact that it’s so easy to make this mistake. 

During a busy giving season, a volunteer on the phone may enter the donor’s data faster than usual, resulting in a typo or a misspelled name and, eventually, a duplicate entry. Charities may also run into duplicate entries after importing multiple contact lists that have the same contact listed in various sources.

The CanadaHelps DMS will automatically detect all possible duplicates in your contact list using the Mass Merge function.

Once the DMS identifies the duplicate contacts, charities can review and verify the duplicate contacts. After the charity confirms which contacts are, in fact, duplicates, all the charity needs to do is select which contacts they’d like to merge, and the DMS takes care of the rest. 

Charities can utilize the Single Merge function when your merging needs require a  more surgical approach.

Single merging allows the charity to pick and choose what they want to keep and delete from both the original and duplicate contact.

After merging contacts, charities are ready for the next step, cleaning up how they label and organize donor groups and tags. 

2. Standardize groups and tags

Segmenting donors using a DMS is a powerful and efficient way for charities to build relationships with their donors. It’s one of the biggest drivers of why charities switch to a DMS.

Charities using the CanadaHelps DMS can segment their donors using Groups, Smart Groups, and Tags functions. From age to income to campaigns your donors participated in previously, there are plenty of ways charities can segment their donors.

But for that same reason, there are also plenty of ways for charities to overcomplicate and convolute their segmentation naming convention.

The remedy? Standardization - the second step to data hygiene.

Starting with the basics, charities should be mindful of spelling, typos and punctuation errors that may result in duplicate Groups or Tags being created.

Next, be consistent in the word choice when segmenting. For example, it’s redundant to create two Tags with the titles vegetarian and no meat, or N/A and not applicable - in reality, both titles serve the same purpose.

Charities can easily check to see if they are following these best practices by navigating to the Administer tab in the DMS and clicking on Tags (Categories) or Manage Groups.

In Tags (Categories), charities may view all existing Tags and quickly identify if they’ve made an error or created a redundant or duplicate tag. The DMS allows charities to segment their Tags even further by organizing them as Parent and Child Tags, where Child Tags are housed under Parent Tags. Charities can also edit or delete existing tags from this page, create new Tags, and even merge redundant or duplicates into a single Tag

Similarly, the Manage Groups section is where charities view all their Groups and Smart Groups all in one place. In addition, charities add, edit, and delete groups as needed to organize and standardize their segments. Charities that wish to segment their lists even further can do so by creating Sub-Groups.

Once you’ve cleaned up your Tags and Groups, it’s time to fill in any remaining holes in your donor’s contact information.

3. Identify missing data

The last part of data hygiene is ensuring that you are not missing critical pieces of information about your donors.

WIth the CanadaHelps DMS, it’s easy to identify incomplete contact entries. 

Navigate to the Contacts tab, and you’ll notice all your donors appear in the contacts list by default. From here, charities can identify important information, including the donor’s City, Province, Phone and Email. 

For example, to check if a Province is missing from the charity’s contact details, click on the Province subheading in the contacts list to sort the results alphabetically. As you click on this subheading, you’ll notice that any contacts with a missing Province field rise to the top of the list. And now, charities can decide if they want to update, merge or delete the contact. Contacts of the same Type (Individuals or Organizations) can also be updated in bulk.

No longer is your contact list plagued by dirty data. Data which would’ve resulted in inaccurate insights into your donors had you left it the way it was. By performing the three data hygiene tasks above, you can confidently pull accurate insights to serve your donors better.

Want to take your data hygiene to the next level? Click here to learn more about data hygiene best practices and industry standards!

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