Chapter Leadership Brief 5.09.19
By Steve Jacobson, AFP-NYC President-Elect and CEO, JCA, Inc.
It’s that time of year again when I have mixed emotions. On the one hand, I look forward to spring cleaning and the cathartic ritual of throwing out my old unwanted stuff. But, conversely, being a sentimentalist, I sometimes dread having to throw out my old unwanted stuff. In the end, it’s all about my need to have my house in order. In fact, you may be using something like the KonMari method to clean and reorganize your home, but what are you doing to improve your workspace?
When I say “workspace,” I’m not referring to your physical desk. Between inboxes, databases, and spreadsheets, technology has become so pervasive that it requires more time and energy to clean than our homes. And, the challenge is so daunting, we often don’t know where to start.
The consequences of not performing routine maintenance on your donor management CRM system are far more serious than, for example, not cleaning out your closet. After all, what harm are those Bugle Boy jeans really causing? Consider this, though: if an organization continues to put off removing duplicates in its donor CRM, and continues to run direct mail campaigns, that organization has current and prospective donors receiving duplicate mail. Not only do our constituents not appreciate receiving multiple pieces in the mail, there’s a real cost to your organization in wasteful spending on materials, postage and labor. Taking the time to “spring clean” your database this year is an investment that will pay off in years to come.
So, where do you start? Consider these short- and long-term fixes for improving data quality.
Do Now: Short-Term Fixes
Bring these action items up at your next team meeting.
- Clearly define what your database’s terms/codes mean.
- Identify, remap and consolidate obsolete codes.
- Set expectations for what steps should be taken to create a new code.
- Stick to a naming convention, especially for appeals and campaigns.
- Establish rules for data entry and document them.
- Use a data overlay service to provide enhanced data on your constituents.
- Train your users to enter data correctly.
- Get rid of exports, queries, and report layouts that people don’t use.
Make a Difference: Long-Term Fixes
Begin these processes to dramatically improve and filter your unhelpful data.
- Speak to your leadership; get buy-in from the top down. Help your leadership understand that poor data quality leads to poor return on investment (ROI). Point to the nitty-gritty: show the mess, and let them visualize your process.
- Get help where you need it! Whether it’s an assessment, the development of a clean-up plan, or some key data overlays (like NCOA, deceased identification, or email/phone appends), reach out for professional advice.
- Review the database and take note of its capabilities. Evaluate the issues within your database, either on your own or with a professional. Once you’ve explored the data, come up with a plan for tackling quick-wins with your team—and a timeline for the bigger projects.
- Create and enforce policies and procedures. The hardest part shouldn’t be keeping the database clean. Once you’ve done the work, implement policies to prevent the same issues from reoccurring. Don’t let your hard work go to waste.
I wish you luck with your spring cleaning. Remember: when in doubt, throw it out!