There’s no doubt that data is the lifeblood of nonprofits. It drives fundraising, shapes stewardship efforts, and informs strategic decisions. However, to extract value from data, it must be clean, accurate, and reliable. 

These 14 tips and best practices can help to ensure that your data remains a valuable asset rather than a liability: 

1. Start with a Data Hygiene Strategy

Every journey begins with a plan, and data hygiene is no different. Create a comprehensive data hygiene strategy tailored to your nonprofit’s specific needs. Define objectives, identify key areas that require attention, and establish a clear roadmap for implementation. Your strategy should be a living document that evolves as your organization’s data needs change.

 

data hygiene button on keyboard

 

2. Regularly Cleanse Your Data

Data cleansing is the process of identifying and rectifying errors, inaccuracies, and inconsistencies in your database. Regularly schedule data cleansing sessions to maintain data accuracy. Common cleansing tasks include de-duplication, validation, and standardization. Automation tools can streamline this process, making it more efficient and less error-prone.

3. Standardize Data Entry Practices

Inconsistent data entry practices can lead to messy data. Create and enforce standardized data entry procedures within your organization. Provide clear guidelines for formatting, abbreviations, and naming conventions. The goal is to ensure that data is consistently entered in a uniform manner.

Humanitru understands that clean data is easiest to maintain when consistent practices are implemented from the start. We provide all of our users with an easy-to-understand guide that can be customized to fit the needs of your organization. The guide can be used to train staff and establish a standard for all data input into your database.

4. Implement Validation Rules

Validation rules are checks that automatically review data as it’s entered. For instance, email addresses should be validated to ensure they adhere to the correct format. Phone numbers should have the right number of digits. These rules act as an immediate quality control, preventing incorrect or incomplete data from being added to your database. Most CRM platforms have built-in validation of key fields, but you should confirm that your fields are properly formatted to match the input validation you need. 

5. Enrich Your Data

Data enrichment involves supplementing existing data with additional information. For example, you can enhance supporter profiles by adding demographic information or employment details. You could even add a personal touch to a profile by adding a supporter photo if available. This not only improves the quality of your data but also allows for more targeted stewardship and marketing efforts.

 

A woman smiles at the viewer in an office meeting

 

6. Regularly Update Records

Data ages quickly. Supporters change email addresses, move to new locations, and switch jobs. To maintain accurate data, schedule regular updates. Consider automating the process of verifying and updating contact information. Set a frequency that aligns with the pace of change in your supporter base.

7. Deduplicate Relentlessly

Duplicate records are a common data hygiene issue. They can lead to errors, inefficiencies, and confusion. Implement a robust de-duplication process that identifies and merges duplicate records. Consider using automated tools to assist in this task, as manual de-duplication can be time-consuming and prone to error.

8. Monitor Data Quality

Data quality is not a one-time task; it’s an ongoing process. Implement data quality monitoring to proactively identify issues. Regularly check for incomplete records, outliers, and anomalies. This practice allows you to catch problems early and take corrective action.

9. Educate Your Team

Data hygiene is a team effort! Ensure that all staff members who interact with the database are educated on the importance of data hygiene and are trained in data entry best practices. Encourage a culture of data responsibility and accountability within your organization.

10. Document Your Processes

Create clear and comprehensive documentation of your data hygiene processes. This documentation ensures that your team follows best practices consistently. It’s also essential for onboarding new staff, who should be well-versed in your data hygiene procedures.

11. Define Data Ownership

Clearly define data ownership within your organization. In larger organizations, this usually falls to a database administrator, but smaller nonprofits may need to assign responsibility for different data elements to specific team members. This not only ensures accountability but also streamlines data management and maintenance.

12. Regularly Audit Your Data

Conduct regular data audits to evaluate the overall quality of your database. Audits can uncover systematic issues and help you identify areas for improvement in your data hygiene processes.

13. Establish Data Governance

Data governance is the framework that defines how data is used and managed within an organization. Establish a data governance program that includes policies, procedures, and decision-making processes related to data. Effective data governance ensures that data hygiene practices are embedded in the organization’s culture.

14. Create a Data Hygiene Schedule

Develop a data hygiene schedule that outlines when specific data hygiene tasks are performed. Some tasks, like deduplication, may need more frequent attention than others. A schedule helps you stay organized and ensures that no essential data hygiene task is neglected.

 

In Summary

Data hygiene is the unsung hero of nonprofit success. It ensures that your data remains accurate, reliable, and valuable. By implementing these tips and best practices, nonprofits can maintain data quality, make informed decisions, build lasting donor relationships, and achieve greater efficiency in marketing and stewardship efforts. 

A commitment to data hygiene is a commitment to excellence in the nonprofit sector.

Humanitru clients experience an average active donor growth of 69%

See how we can help you reach those who support your mission and grow your revenue today!