Authors: Mathew Emery & John Kenyon


Problem: Dirty Data = Lost Dollars & Relationships

Man with headache

Lean staffed nonprofits often have dirty data and even large well staffed nonprofits often have hidden dirty data. There is rarely a big enough fire to make us carve out the time to build the daily/weekly/monthly/quarterly processes and habits that clean data up and keep it clean. This is because the cost of Dirty Data is often hidden. Here are 3 among the many types of examples of Lost Dollars and Relationships driven by Dirty Data:

1) Contact info changes but is not updated in the system => communication stops & dollars stop

  • Example: Donor loves our organization but we only had her old work email address and when that changes, we lose touch with her, costing us a lifetime of giving. The new email address is known by a board member who is a good friend of the donor. No one thought to ask her for the update even though she attended a dinner for the nonprofit at the board member’s house. Bye bye long term donor.

2) Duplicates & financial householding errors => trust hurt by duplicate appeals & giving reduced or lost

  • Example: A donor family received 3 of the exact same mail pieces, including one to their small child – all to the same address. This leaves the family feeling our nonprofit isn’t well run. Bye bye loyal donor family.
  • Example: a donor that is duplicated in donor management system receives an $25 dollar direct mail appeal before the major gift appeal call for the donor record showing $50k in giving. Donor makes a small gift instead of a large gift and allocates balance to other orgs. Bye Bye large end of year gift.

3) Donor info & follow up steps are lost during board/staff transitions => large gifts are not closed/received or are greatly delayed

  • Example: An outgoing board member’s capital campaign pledge wasn’t fulfilled simply because a reminder/tickler wasn’t handed to the new board/staff leadership nor sent to the outgoing board member. Bye bye capital campaign gift.

Simple Solution: Boost Donor Data Integrity => Boost Fundraising Performance

  • Put key donor and funder follow ups into both individual & shared calendars => +follow ups => +$’s
  • Confirm key donor households are tracked & stewarded together appropriately => +good stewardship & +right asks => +$’s
  • Find and merge duplicates & update contact info for key funders and donors => +good stewardship & +stay in touch => +$’s & +retention
  • Establish ongoing rhythm of exec and staff time for data integrity cleanup => +$’s & +retention

How to get started: Do a short self-assessment and schedule a donor data cleanup and donor love day. Involve key staff around your key donors, sustainers, funders, and prospects and dig in. Even if you only clean up the data & follow ups around your top 20 donors, funders, and prospects this will pay dividends well beyond the cost of the time!

Request a draft agenda for a self-service data cleanup and donor love day by sending Mathew an email here.


Hello Donor Love (& $’s) !


Collaborator: Terry Handler

  Category: Resources

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