Empowering Nonprofits: The Data Hygiene Way

Data serves as the fuel powering your fundraising engine. While data is your most valuable asset, the lack of proper data hygiene practices to keep your information clean can lead to inefficiencies and potential interferences to your fundraising and marketing efforts.

It also creates a disconnect across teams, leading to challenges like limited collaboration, misaligned KPIs, and lack of visibility into fundraising.

Responsive nonprofits are making deliberate efforts to ensure that their data is up-to-date, complete, and accessible. However, moving toward healthy data requires discipline, accountability, and thorough data hygiene practices.

The benefits of good quality data:

  • Guides leadership in critical decisions like resource allocation.
  • Enhances team productivity by providing access and visibility into campaign performance.
  • Enables personalized fundraising and marketing strategies based on donor behavior.
  • Creates ways to measure the impact of your mission.

Prioritizing a Thorough Data Hygiene Process

While data hygiene may take a backseat to more pressing mission-critical activities, like cultivating key stakeholder relationships or delivering essential programs to your community, integrating healthy data practices into your organization’s regular monthly or quarterly processes is pivotal to the long-term success of your nonprofit. Putting a hygiene process in place to clean up your CRM data regularly ensures pertinent donor information remains accurate, reliable, and free of redundancies.

Without this ongoing maintenance of your data, you’ll encounter more complicated problems down the road—between interdepartmental inefficiencies or, worse, eroding trust among supporters.

5 Data Hygiene Recommendations

Here are a few data hygiene recommendations that you can put into place now:

  1. Upfront data health policies: It’s important to have clear policies and accountability for data health, which includes how data fields are created and used.
  2. Consistent data collection practices: You’ll want to ensure that you’re taking the appropriate steps to avoid inconsistencies in data entry. This involves making diligent efforts to identify and address sources of inconsistency, such as tracking down spreadsheets that may generate duplicate records or missing data.
  3. Frequent data reviews: Fundraising and finance/operations should be doing regular data reviews, preferably weekly. These routine reviews ensure timely insights into fundraising performance, financial health, and operational efficiency.
  4. Clear attribution tracking: Leaning on attribution tracking allows you to accurately trace the impact of your messaging, understand donor engagement patterns, and optimize future outreach strategies.
  5. Automated data collection: Setting up automated data collection through marketing automation and API eliminates the need for manual entry, streamlining processes and ensuring accuracy in data management for nonprofits.

The Impact of Data Quality on Responsive Fundraising

Responsive fundraising is built on a framework that puts the donor at the center of fundraising and grows giving through personalized donor experiences that respond to the needs of each individual.

This responsive framework only works when it’s powered by good, clean nonprofit data. When there is poor data quality, nonprofits cannot carry out the framework the way it’s intended.

Think about it: When you make attempts to become a more responsive team, listening and connecting with donors using flawed or incomplete data puts your relationships at risk. The last thing your donor wants after they’ve given a generous donation is to read an acknowledgment email addressed to the wrong person: “Dear Steeve, with your help, we provided 60 meals to those in need during the holidays” won’t quite give him the warm, fuzzy feeling you wanted it to.

Such oversights may be just enough to dissuade a donor from engaging with you any further, leading them to consider supporting another organization. Even loyal supporters might brush it off the first couple of times, but if the mistake isn’t corrected, it could affect your ability to engage and retain donors.

You can easily avoid these types of mishaps by maintaining high-quality data.

The cleaner you can keep your data, the more you’re able to achieve ongoing support and strengthen the connection between donors and your mission.

It’s all a part of becoming a more responsive and responsible nonprofit.

Tech Tools to Help You Maintain Data Integrity

From managing several fundraising programs at a time to recruiting and training passionate volunteers, nonprofits often find themselves juggling myriad responsibilities. These higher-priority responsibilities can take precedence over data management. However, taking a back-seat approach to data cleanliness can create bigger problems for your fundraising and marketing teams down the road.

As a responsive nonprofit making intentional efforts to listen and connect with your donor base, data is your north star to improving your content and messaging and creating more meaningful interactions that turn into long-term support.

Fortunately, there are tech tools designed to streamline the process, allowing organizations to maintain data integrity even amid busy schedules:

  • Data health software: Identifies common errors and inconsistencies in data, such as duplicate entries, misspellings, and outdated information.
  • Strong opt-in tracking: Offers explicit “opt-in” and “opt-out” functionality on all data collection forms, such as email marketing. This data should flow directly to your CRM.
  • Email hygiene: When in doubt, use third-party tools to verify email address validity and be relentless in removing bad addresses and unsubscribes. Follow all CAN-SPAM recommendations for email sending and sign-up.
  • NCOA and contact info appends: Update mailing lists at least quarterly from the National Change of Address Database. When possible, append additional third-party contact data.
  • Shared, real-time reporting suite: Real-time reports that are accessible to everyone. Reports shouldn’t require manual work and should provide clarity around key metrics.

Are you getting ready to onboard with a new nonprofit CRM? While the process of migrating data can already feel pretty daunting—like getting yourself ready to hike up Mount Kilimanjaro—it’s an opportune time to clean up your data.

The main factors contributing to data discrepancies are duplicate contacts, incorrect or incomplete records, and obsolete entries. Use this opportunity to address these significant issues head-on.

“The great news about cleaning up your data prior to migration is that you’ll know your data inside and out by that time and shouldn’t be surprised by anything in the migration.”

Stephen Shieh, Product Manager at Virtuous

For nonprofits that partner with Virtuous, they’re never alone. From the onboarding to CRM implementation and beyond, our team is here to guide you every step of the way.

“Data migration can be scary, especially if you have messy data. Luckily for you, we have a team of experienced partners who have helped many of our customers think through their data cleanup. We’d be happy to connect you with one of them,” he shares.

Clean Data Leads to Better Reporting and Outcomes

The success and longevity of today’s nonprofits hinge on trustworthy and error-free data. Without it, organizations face ineffective reporting, limiting their ability to make informed decisions, tailor donor communications, or demonstrate fundraising impact.

Oftentimes, nonprofits do their best to maintain the integrity of their data but are held back by their clunky reporting processes. For an organization like The Freedom Story, the team spent a lot of time moving data between disparate systems, leading to inefficiencies in the team’s workflow.

After seeing how Virtuous streamlines fundraising, marketing, and donor data, The Freedom Story made the switch. Now with centralized data that everyone on their team can access, the organization has created more efficient processes for reporting, freeing up more time to focus on nurturing relationships with donors.

“Virtuous has been extremely helpful for our organization. It allows us to pull reports and data on donors very easily and allows us to send out automated emails and see insights and feedback. That has allowed us to grow our organization organically and know what our donors respond to.”

Alaynah Morrow, Data Manager at The Freedom Story

Simplify Your Key Performance Indicators

Clear, concise, and collaborative reporting keeps the entire organization abreast of shared goals and provides transparency into progress and potential risks. It also allows you to confidently test new ideas and iterate based on what’s working and what’s not.

While reporting can offer real benefits, a common problem among nonprofits is leveraging too many reports or focusing on reports that don’t provide real organizational value. This issue often leads to data overload and can divert resources away from critical insights. Striking a balance by prioritizing reports that align with organizational goals and truly inform decision-making ensures that efforts are directed toward meaningful and actionable data.

To optimize your reporting efforts, we recommend focusing on simple KPIs that result in bigger outcomes. Here are three reasons why:

  1. Easy to understand: Narrowing it down to three to five simple KPIs helps people quickly identify the core areas where your nonprofit needs improvement. This ensures that your team is focused on the right tasks to achieve your goals efficiently.
  2. Actionable insights: By measuring and tracking a smaller number of specific metrics, it becomes easier to identify areas where action needs to be taken.
  3. Time-saving: Simple KPIs provide a concise view of performance. This reduces the need for lengthy reports and analysis, which can lead to information overload.

Once you’ve identified which KPIs you want to track, a responsive nonprofit CRM, like Virtuous, displays it all on your CRM dashboard. That way, you can see all of your key data insights in one place—from donation history to donor activity tracking.

Nonprofits that partner with Virtuous have several ways to break down their data, including filters, queries, and standard reports built right into the dashboard. For cases where you need something more, you can also create a custom report.

Next Step: Integrating Technology and Teams

To help you become a more responsive nonprofit, we’ve created a maturity model framework, a step-by-step guide often used by organizations to benchmark their current level of maturity against industry best practices.

This blog walks you through the first stage of the maturity model: Data and Health Reporting. As you progress across each step, you’ll see increased team effectiveness, increased donor retention and gift size, decreased staff burnout, improved advocacy, and improved donor acquisition metrics.

To learn the five building blocks to responsive fundraising, download The Responsive Maturity Model: 5 Building Blocks to Drive Increased Generosity.

What you should do now

Below are three ways we can help you begin your journey to building more personalized fundraising with responsive technology.

See the Virtuous platform in action.  Schedule a call with our team for personalized answers and expert advice on transforming your nonprofit with donor management software.

Download our free Responsive Maturity Model and learn the 5 steps to more personalized donor experiences.

If you know another nonprofit pro who’d enjoy reading this page, share it with them via Email, Linkedin, Twitter, or Facebook.

The Responsive Maturity Model
5 Steps to More Personalized Donor Experiences
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“Virtuous truly understands nonprofits and the importance of our mission. And their open access to data and built-in custom reports gave us access to the data we need.”
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