Just because your organization is a nonprofit doesn’t mean it is non-pressure. Nonprofits compete just as hard for donors as for-profit businesses compete for customers, meaning any edge a nonprofit can gain over its competition is vitally important for its mission. Increasingly, nonprofits old and new are utilizing the power of the Internet to boost donations and engage with donors — this access providing the ability to reach out to donors and easily collect information that can help gain more donations. However, that information is only as good as the system that organizes it.
Keeping a database that provides nonprofits with valuable, actionable data requires more than simply entering information into a form. Ensuring that data is clean and consistent is essential for nonprofits; otherwise it can prove useless. For example, something as minor as a comma can cause database chaos. If one donation total is listed as “$1,000” and another is listed as “$1000”, you might see one and not the other when searching for donations of $1,000 and higher. If data is not entered into the system in a consistent manner, it might be impossible to search for certain resources — not to mention you end up with incomplete and inconsistent information. With a database that doesn’t function properly, you might as well go back to the days of the Rolodex and carbon paper.
That’s why nonprofits need to make data cleaning a regular and prominent part of their database management. Not only does data cleaning create a database that’s more convenient to use, it also ensures that nonprofits can more effectively reach out to donors (and potential donors) in an effort to maximize opportunities.
Although data cleaning can resolve issues where inconsistent data entry creates confusion and delay, it also serves to help eliminate duplicate data points that clutter databases. Accompanied by strict adherence to data standardization rules, data cleaning has the potential to streamline a nonprofit’s data collection and utilization. This gives a nonprofit the potential to become a much stronger organization overall and gain a significant advantage over its competitors.
Cleaning and protecting data is a matter of extreme importance for nonprofits, and can mean the difference between successfully courting big donors and having to scrape by on leftovers. The following data cleaning checklist outlines the steps nonprofits need to take to ensure they are making the most of the opportunities the Internet provides.
Doug Cogswell is the founder and current President & CEO of ADVIZOR Solutions, a Business Intelligence software company that is all about enabling people to better understand and analyze their data. With a degree in physics and engineering from Dartmouth, an MBA from Harvard, strategy consulting experience with both Bain and Booze Allen, and over 15 years in the BI sector, Doug has extensive data analytics and client strategy expertise. He is a thought leader in the world of data discovery and analysis.