Three steps to better data hygiene

This last week I was fortunate to be part of a talented panel of speakers talking about data at the Australian Event Manager’s Forum. This Forum meets once a quarter to talk about case studies and issues relating to the NFP sector and to event management.

I shared with 60 people in attendance the fact I receive a call each week from a non-profit organisation asking for help in finding the “right fundraising software” for the organisation. The charity wants to find software that will deliver not only in the event space, but across the organisation. For some organisations, FundraisingForce conducts constituent relationship management (CRM) searches to find the right fit.

Conversations can be had about the requirements of the organisation in order to find the right fit. But, put aside the software for a second and think about the practices that exist (or are likely absent) across the organisation.

Too few in the charity space focus on the detail in a single supporter record in the database. We are too busy worrying whether the software we own does this task or that task. We are too busy completing transactions and tasks (i.e. booking a donation, getting the tax appeal out) that we do not take the time, while in possession of a supporter record, to do what I have called CEE a record.

Change of Focus – Day to Day/Hour by Hour Data CleansingAlarm, beruf, berufsfeuerwehr, brand, brennen, brennt, einsatz, feuer, feueralarm, feuerlöscher, feuerwehr, feuerwehrmann, feuerwehrschlauch, feuerwehrübung, flamme, feuerwehr, gefahr, helfen, helm, hilfe, retten; männchen, katastrophe, löschen, not, notfall, notruf, rettung, schlauch, schutz, schutzhelm, sicherheit, Daten, Strichmännchen, verbrennen Wohnungsbrand, wasser, wasser marsch, sos, unfall, Wasserschlauch, Löschzug, Löschteich

  • C – When in possession of a supporter’s record, no matter who you are in the organisation, Confirm the contact details with the supporter or Confirm the record is complete when you simply open a record to view information.
  • EEdit anything in the record the supporter tells you or you view as incorrect.
  • EEnhance anything in the record you see missing. Mobile phone numbers and email addresses are missing from about 70% of most charities supporter records.

Do the above day to day, hour by hour.

Monthly Data Cleansing

Once you have the day-to-day practices in place, you must focus on the masses. First, at the close of each month, someone on your team must troll the data base to look for known issues – incomplete records – addresses missing a post code, addresses missing a suburb, state, titles missing, etc. Make this one person’s job.

Cleaning up the house once a month makes it a lot easier for major clean-ups.

Annual Data Cleansing

Your organisation needs to perform Data Hygiene at least once per year before a big mailing or event.

Data Hygiene is the practice of cleansing the data, using a service provider who will access the Australia Post National Change of Address, NCOA, file on your organisation’s behalf. The service will also use other data sources and may enhance the data to offer you dates of birth, phone numbers or other enhanced information valuable for major gift and bequest efforts.

Why do annual Data Hygiene? I have over 300 charities in my direct marketing mystery shopping study. I have lived in three apartments during the time the study has been underway. Some charities are mailing me at my address 3 apartments ago. I only receive the mail because I continue to renew my mail redirection service with Australia Post. Most Australians only renew their mail redirection once at best, if at all.

Of the 300 charities in the study, only 3 have found me at my correct address.

What do the other 297 charities do when a person does not file a mail redirection service? What do the other 297 charities do when a person does not continue to renew the mail redirection?

Why don’t charities conduct an annual Data Hygiene process? They put it in the “too hard” bucket. They put it in the “too expensive” bucket.

Too Hard

It is “too hard” if you do not understand the process. If you tried it once and it was “too hard”, find a supplier in the market to conduct the process and document it for you once. We can then transfer the knowledge to you to make it easy and allow you to be self-sufficient each time thereafter.


I don’t buy this argument. It is very expensive to acquire a new donor. Sure Data Hygiene costs NFPs. But, it is less expensive to run a data hygiene process than it is to acquire a new donor. It is less expensive to do the Data Hygiene process annually than it is to continue to mail pieces, which do not reach their intended recipients.

Unless you practice good Data Hygiene, the work done in terms of event fundraising, donor acquisition fundraising, and other areas do not matter.