Data Rot Can Contaminate Your Associations Nonprofit Database

Your Donor and Member Database is contaminated? Need help!

What is data rot? The following definition from Wikipedia is as good as any:

“Data rot, or data decay, is a colloquial computing phrase for the gradual decay of storage media or an explanation for the degradation of a software program over time, even if ‘nothing has changed.’”

Note the allusion to both hardware and software. Count on your hardware wearing out or becoming obsolete about every five years. Here is an amusing observation found on the internet by Dag Spicer the Chief Content Officer of the Computer History Museum:

“If Moses had gotten the Ten Commandments on a floppy disk, it would never have made it to today.”

If the storage medium becomes like a dusty coffin, its contents — your data — also deteriorates over time, because life goes on as data remains static.

Causes and effects of data rot

Take your member, donors and constituents database, for example. According to a recent article from Updentity’s Benjamin Ashpole, Chief Executive Officer, and Brandy Coomer, Chief Interaction Officer found on Third Sector Today these experts cite the following statistics:

  • About 36 million Americans changed their address in 2013.
  • People change their mailing addresses at an overall rate of 11 percent.
  • Mobile and landline phone numbers change at a rate of 18 percent.
  • About 86 percent of women change their surnames when they marry.
  • 2 million people quit their job every month

What data rot means for nonprofits is that, as data becomes outdated:

  • each obsolete record is a lost opportunity to contact a prospective donor, volunteer or board member; and
  • poor data quality increases wasted time in bounced telephone calls, returned mail and overall administrative costs
  • resulting in bad customer service experiences.

Do you know the cost of Bad Data for your Nonprofit?

Prevention, treatment and cure

What nonprofits can do to prevent, forestall and cure data rot depends on the complexity and age of their data. The following are some basic steps:

1. Make sure your data entry methods include built-in safeguards against omissions, duplicates, incorrect zip codes, etc. CRM applications typically include data entry rules that can prevent common errors.

2. Remember the GIGO (garbage in-garbage out) rule. Someone should actually proofread every new data entry before finally sending it to your contact database.

3. Use interns, volunteers or staff downtime to do the necessary data scrubbing, personal contacts and follow-up to clean up data rot.

4. Review a software platform such as our business partner updentity that appends names, email addresses, phone numbers, mailing addresses, demographic information, and more to keep databases up-to-date. 

If you are contemplating a customer database change, it may not be the system which is broke. Rather, it may be the data and perhaps you simply need to call on more automated methods and computer modules described in our blog on Association Management Software.

Whatever your data rot problems or concerns, contact us. We can you find the resource you need to fix it!

We do not sell software, we listen, and solve problems!


Shitter Full? It may be time to clean up your Data

Shitter is Full
Click Pic for Video Enjoyment!

Is good old Uncle Eddie needed at your Association?

At our home, one of our favorite classic movies is “Christmas Vacation” with Chevy Chase from the 80’s. You know the show, that’s the one where good old Uncle Eddie shows up in his Recreational Vehicle (RV) and crashes the family vacation. Specifically, there is one scene that reminds us of something that we all have to do with our database systems, clean it out!

In fact, many associations may find it almost as bad as cleaning out the waste from the RV receptacle like “Cleaning out the Shitter”.

Data Management is Critical for Databases!

So, is your “Shitter” Full? If so, how do you cleanse and purge your receptacle of data?

Data cleansing is the process of altering data in your association database to make sure that it is accurate and correct. There are many ways to pursue data cleansing in various software and data storage architectures; most of them center on the careful review of data sets and the protocols associated with any particular data storage technology. Data cleansing is also known as data scrubbing.

In more complex operations, data cleansing can be performed by computer modules like iMerge for an Association Management system called iMIS. These programs can check the data with a variety of rules and procedures decided upon by the user. A program could be set to delete all records that have not been updated within the previous five years, correct any misspelled words and delete any duplicate copies. A more complex program might be able to fill in a missing city data based on a correct postal code or change the prices of all items in a database to another type of currency. Many association management systems today even have postal verification software like Accumail.

So, how do you know your “Shitter” is full? Below you will find the top questions to ask to determine if your database (Shitter) needs help from good ole Uncle Eddie:
  1. Can you rely on your data to send out your dues billing statements, email campaigns, or conference solicitations?
  2. Is your member data missing important pieces which make records incomplete?
  3. Does you staff have separate excel spreadsheets due to lack of “Faith” in the information stored?
  4. Does it suffer from having duplication of records?
  5. Does it have dead contact data and accounts which no longer exist?
  6. Is there something more you could add to enhance your Association Software data?
  7. Has it been more than 2 years since you reviewed or surveyed your constituents for current data?
  8. Do you feel comfortable sending important statistical data to your Board?

What is the cost of not cleaning up your Shitter?

It is pretty simple. Nonprofit Association Management data is critical for your organization. Bad data costs time, efficiency, money & results. And, duplication & redundant Association Management data provides you distorted reports & business intelligence.

What is the best way to clean your data?

  1. Allow your members or donors access to their data online. It’s easier to manage the exceptions that input 1000 plus new or updated information by your staff.
  2. Purchase a software program to regularly cleanse and scrub your data regularly. This should be a task which your organization commits to each month and especially before large campaigns.
  3. If you have neither the resources above, hire a temp to do it! If you do not have the time in house, hire someone to do it for you.

For most, cleaning out your database is one of the last things on the list of “to do’s”.

But, if you don’t take the time to perform this very critical step in your nonprofit, you will likely have more than your fair share of problems.

We can help! Please Contact Us for more information on our data cleansing techniques and tools.

You won’t believe the impact of Disparate Data Syndrome?

Is your nonprofit database a problem?

The number one reason why we are called into nonprofits today is to help find a solution to improve how their team works better together. In other words, they need a 360 degree view of their member, donor, and customer which is shared by everyone in the organization. In this article, we explore the impact of disparate data and discuss ways to help.

What is Disparate Data Syndrome?

DDS  stands for Disparate Data Syndrome. It is an acronym for a serious ailment faced by many non-profit associations.

DDS is a very common condition whereby your association is overwhelmed by the use of multiple databases, spreadsheets, & disparate data sources. Due to the use of Disparate Data sources your organization is likely wasting time, money, and impacting your member retention. DDS is not an overnight ailment; rather it’s a gradual and progressive acquisition of various tool sets in order to stop the bleeding in your organization. The various tools are typically added by well-intended purposes and uses over time but ultimately cause of a very frustrating situation for staff, executives, boards and ultimately your members.

Common symptoms of DDS:

  • Your association has an excel spreadsheet for everything
  • You have an email marketing system which is not connected to our database or web site
  • You are constantly rekeying data from our General Ledger back/forth between our membership system
  • Your website has a separate database from our membership or donor system
  • You have a separate Event Management system
  • Your  web content management system is a third party solution

DDS is by far the number one reason why associations contact SmartThoughts today. We believe it’s because  Association Executives now understand the impact a non-integrated platform has on all stakeholders in the association (staff, executives, board members, membership, and volunteers).

No mas mi amigos, there is a better way! 

Just 10 years ago, most small associations were simply looking for a way to put up a website. The times have changed very quickly.

Today, due to the common availability of SaaS Cloud technology, solutions are less expensive and this once elusive organizational goal of implementing one platform is now in the reach of even the smallest nonprofits today.

To reiterate, even small associations can find a solution to help eliminate Disparate Data Syndrome!

Options today to solve the problem

In fact, it’s not even a matter of is there a solution, but rather which association management platform is best suited for my particular organization.

SmartThoughts is well qualified to help in your efforts to eliminate DDS, and we can help find the right tool through our software selection services.

For most organizations, the important task of finding the right fit can be a confusing process to weed through the options.

There is no-doubt many association technologies on the market today. We are skilled at evaluating business requirements and formulating the proper path to take to ensure you avoid the pitfalls of DDS in your organization.

Please don’t procrastinate and suffer any longer with this ailment. Your non-profit does not have to delay in finding a cure for Disparate Data in your association any longer.

If you would like to learn more, please contact us for help with software selection services. Until then, keep SmartThoughts in mind.

We can help with finding a new nonprofit database for your needs!