The idea of spring cleaning can be overwhelming. During the winter months, it becomes second nature to push everything to the side to tackle another day. There’s so much to do it’s often difficult to know where or how to start. In your home there are closets to clean out, windows to wash and garages to organize. This same phenomenon happens in the nonprofit environment. Areas that have been neglected all need to be spruced up. This is, especially true for the organization's information database.
The agency database is the hub of a nonprofit organization. It houses employee information, donor records, marketing details, templates, mailing data, client data, tax information, forms, and hundreds of other pertinent pieces of information your organization needs to exist. Often the database can be the most neglected component of your agency. Databases get clogged up with inaccurate information, stale templates and outdated donor information. Well spring is here and now is the time to get that database in tip top shape.
While it's easy to recognize your database needs a complete scrubbing, it isn’t always easy to know where to begin. In Bo Crader’s article Spring Cleaning Your Database, he suggests using the following approach to getting started.
Backup: The first step in your database cleanup is to back up your system and test the archive file.
Prioritize: Review your most important constituent information: The records for board and committee members, staff, solicitors, major donors, high-priority prospects and other key individuals. If necessary, solicit new or updated information on these individuals to ensure your organization stays on top of important details.
Analyze: Run a search for duplicate records in your database and merge any redundant records.
Delete: Go ahead and write off long-overdue pledges and delete unused queries, outdated reports and anything else data-entry packrats have kept around “just in case.”
Archive Dated Information: Archive the records for inactive and deceased constituents so they won’t show up in reports, mailings and other queries.
Clean house: Walk through the various departments in your organization, and see where rogue systems and spreadsheets have proliferated. Where possible, migrate these sources into your system of record keeping.
Go to the source: If your database has an inordinate amount of duplicate records, outdated information or other errors, figure out why and adjust to avoid this in the future.
Train: Work with end-users improve the quality of your data. Establish policies and procedures on how the database should be used.
Once your database has been sorted and cleaned up consider doing periodic maintenance to keep thing running smoothly.
*Bo Crader is a founding member of Blackbaud’s interactive services team. He works in various capacities as a business architect, implementation advisor and strategist. Bo has held positions in communications, consulting and business solutions. He worked previously in publishing and served in the military. Specific areas of expertise include interactive strategy, emerging technologies, solution architecture and design, and project planning. To view Mr. Crader’s complete article visit http://npengage.com/nonprofit-technology/spring-cleaning-your-database
Program & Outreach Director for VCMC