Clean Up Your Data and Reap the Rewards

 

 

 

 

What if I told you that you could increase your major gift revenue by thousands of dollars, and all you had to do was clean up your database?

Yep, this is what can happen when you take the time to “clean up” and straighten out your data issues.

How do I know this? Let me tell you. Before Veritus works with any client, we do an extensive analysis of the client’s database. I mean we really get in there, because we are ultimately trying to discover the best “pool” of potential donors that will end up on caseloads.

Well, we often find a ton of “dirty data” and, once we help clean it up, it saves the organization money AND it identifies donors that have been unattended to and have more potential to give. It’s absolutely astounding what we find.

Now that we are heading into February, this is a good time for you to take a few days to scour your database and clean up some of the mess. By the way, no non-profit we’ve ever worked for has been exempt from having “dirty data.” It’s nothing to be ashamed of, but it’s definitely something you can take charge of today. Here are some recommendations to help you clean up your data and start bringing in much more revenue.

 

  1. Review any donors who have been assigned to MGOs who are no longer working at the organization. We’ve found literally hundreds of donors in databases who are assigned to MGOs who no longer work for the organization. So guess what? No one is doing anything with those donors. And in some cases, they are not even getting appeal letters or newsletters. Keeping this up to date is critical.
  1. Review restriction codes. This one is an eye-opener. In some databases we’ve seen literally thousands of donors who have restriction codes like “do not mail” or “do not call or contact” on them, and no one remembers why, or who changed their records. I’m telling you, in most cases when we clean that up and ask donors if they would like to continue getting communication from the organization, they say, “of course.” So these donors have been in the database incorrectly coded with some kind of restriction, when they probably should never have been coded in the first place. Check this out. There is money there. And in the future, a note should be made on why the restriction was placed, and what employee created the restriction.
  1. Contact clean up. Do you have the right phone, email, address? When was the last time you ran an NCOA your file? What about an email append? How many duplicate records do you have? Clean that stuff up. There is nothing worse for a donor than to receive two or three of the same direct mail piece from the same organization. This shows that you do not know the donor. This is especially true for major donors. It’s unacceptable.
  1. Link related accounts. This one is frustrating. Let’s say you have a major donor who gave through a DAF or family foundation. So for some reason there could be two or three accounts, but it’s really one donor. Then the MGO goes to research the donor’s previous giving and she gets only a part of the story, because no one has linked or combined the accounts. Sometimes we’ve seen two different MGOs assigned to the same donor unknowingly, because they have different accounts. What does that tell the donor?
  1. Review donors who normally give via a DAF/Community Foundation. You want to make sure soft credits have been made (e.g. Fidelity, Silicon Valley Community Foundation). Too many times the database has the DAF as the donor. No, the donor gives through the DAF or Foundation. But it’s the donor that is giving. This is so important to get right, but the databases we’ve seen are littered with incorrect soft credits.
  1. Verify that all matching gifts have been posted and soft credited. So a donor gives you $10,000 and his company matches it. Great. Except that if you look in the donor database, you see that the donor gave $10,000 and then another record was created showing that the company gave $10,000! Ugh. Can’t do that. Make sure that gets credited to the donor and not to the company. You only want one record here. Folks, we’ve seen tons of companies get information from the organization in mail, newsletters, etc., when the gift should be credited to the donor. Worse is when the organization sends out a thank you letter to the company and not to the actual donor. This happens because someone receiving the donation is unaware of how this should work.
  1. Review gifts of stock. You really need to review these too. Just like with a DAF or community foundation, check to see that your donors are credited with a stock gift correctly. We’ve seen too many unattributed stock gifts in databases.
  1. Make lots of notes! With your portfolio of donors, make sure you are up-to-date on all of your notes. Have you recorded all of your contacts correctly? If another person took over your caseload, would he be able to go into that record and know exactly what has happened with that donor, and where you have been going with the donor? If not, you need to spend some time in there and update it. It’s the best gift you can give your organization.

 

This will give you a great start as you begin to review your database and clean it up. While I know it’s a pain to go in there and clean this up, in the long run you will save money – because you will increase the revenue from donors you may not have even paid attention to before.

 

Jeff

 

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6 Comments

  • Amy says:

    Thanks, Jeff! All the best to you!

  • Emily says:

    Thanks–that’s very helpful!

  • In reply to Amy.
    Hi Amy. There are a number of them out there. But, two that you should look into is Boomerang and Donor Perfect. Both are “in the cloud” and easy to navigate.

    Jeff

  • Amy says:

    Thank you for the outstanding support you provide to our fundraising community! Two follow ups:

    1. A comment on your reply to Emily’s question. I’ve had some angst around ensuring that double counting is not inflating financial reporting, both with cash-based accounting and general fundraising income. Pulling reports distinguishing soft and hard credit should be simple, but too many times I have found it is not … which leads to my next question.

    2. Can you recommend some best resources for a small nonprofit looking for its first development database? What are the best products out there currently for ease of use and awesome moves management features?

  • In reply to Emily.
    Hi Emily. No, you are doing it right. IRS requires that the gift if hard credited to the DAF or Community Foundation because the donor got their IRS credit when they gave to the DAF/Fdn. What often gets lost is soft crediting the donor. AND in the case of these small DAFs, which are really like family foundations now, the accounts are not linked so the management goes off in two different directions OR the donor who gave every year one way and then switches to a Family DAF, suddenly looks lapsed and is not lapsed.

    Matching Gifts have to be hard credited to the Business but the soft credit to the donor is often missed, which goes to the cume value of the donor. It gets lost. For example, Exxon Mobil did a 3 to 1 match for years. A donor that looks like a $1,000 donor is actually a $4,000 donor but that cannot be seen if the soft credit was not handled.

    Hope this helps

  • Emily says:

    Jeff, everyone on my team loves your blogs! Points 5 and 6 caught my attention. We’ve been crediting whoever actually sends us a check as the donor and soft crediting our alumnus. So for example, if someone gives through a DAF, the DAF issues tax credit, so we consider the DAF the donor and the alumnus a soft credit. It sounds like we’re doing this wrong?

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