New Year – time to cleanse your data

Data-Analytics-and-Dirty-DataAs someone who has mystery shopped hundreds of charities over the past five years, I find it frustrating (and inexcusable) that few charities in Asia Pacific appear to cleanse their data in any meaningful aspect.

In fact, none of the charities in my mystery shopping study appear to have performed national change of address (NCOA) on their data set over the last year since I moved from Sydney to Brisbane in April 2014. If it was not for the mail redirection service from the Australia Post (including a renewal of the service), I would not be receiving any of this charity mail. Instead. Australia Post includes the forwarding of charity mail in the mail redirection service. Nonetheless, charities cannot depend on mail redirection for people like me to receive their mail.

When I have mentioned this situation to many charities (including those in the mystery shopping study), staff ask “why don’t you tell each charity”? My response: It is up to the charity to find me and, especially, those in the study!

It’s the new year and it is time to get your data house in order and to prepare for upcoming appeals. What is stopping your organisation from performing NCOA and other data hygiene services on your data set? Often times I hear the following reasons (and I give the following responses!):

  • No budget/What’s the return on investment
    • Your organisation invests tens of thousands (or more) in donor acquisition. Why would you want to throw that money away by not keeping track of your donors when they move. The cost to acquire a new donor is expensive. Losing contact with that new donor after, or during, the first year is even more expensive than it costs to cleans the data and to acquire a new address for the donor.
  • I’m not sure it will have a big impact on our organisation.
    • Most services, including one FundraisingForce will provide to your organisation, offer a report to educate you about the health of your data file prior to launching into any actual changes. This allows you to learn, first-hand, the healthiness fo the data, learn about changes that should be made, and determine which changes to then engage the firm in the actual changes.
  • I do not understand how this works.
    • Most staff do not understand the process let alone the simplicity of how it works. That’s why you engage an outside professional to take you through the process and someone who has performed the process thousands of times.
  • No one in my organisation is responsible for data hygiene.
    • Why not let the owner be you? You have the opportunity to be a hero in your organisation by taking ownership of the data and helping those responsible for donor retention to increase their percentage.
  • We do not have the time to even take care of the Return to Sender (RTS) mail in-house.
    • Let’s perform data hygiene on your entire file and then the RTS mail will become far less.

It pains me when I see stacks (or bins) of RTS mail in an organisation. To visualise this, replace the stack of mail with stacks of money. Wasted material, postage and staff time = stacks of money. Invest a little of that money into some internal processes when RTS mail arrives and then in data hygiene at least one time per year to see this trend reverse for your next appeal. You will not look back in regret. It’s nearly the end of January. What are you waiting for? Someone else to do it?