Bad Data Quality Is The Database Killer!

Bad Data is A Database Killer

Data Quality Is Critical In CRM Success

Data Quality is mission critical to any database.  In fact, it doesn’t matter how much money you spend on a new system, without the right information in the system and getting the best data out your nonprofit might as well save your time and money. It’s going to be a failure. In this article, I discuss the impact of bad data quality and the importance of planning and ongoing cleanup in a unified database (AMS or CRM) to ensure database success.

“Throwing the baby out with the bath water” is an expression which a partner of mine used quite frequently to describe his data migration projects. In essence, he used this expression to imply that when moving data (spreadsheets, access databases, email systems and the Rolodex file left by a former association founder) from one system to another be careful and check the good data and the bad data before bringing the information over. The baby, in this sense, represents the good data that can be preserved. The bath water, on the other hand, usually is dirty after the baby is washed and needs to be discarded, just like the data which is bad or useless.

Begin With The End In Mind In Your Nonprofit Database

Right now, you might have an array of information in various systems. Putting all that data to work over the years has resulted in a treasure trove of information, which you likely safeguard feverishly and spend lots of staff time keeping it current, right?

Before you embark on moving to a new system, it’s a good time to begin that long-delayed project of data maintenance and that much-needed data quality check to provide data clarity. Data migration is essentially taking the lifeblood of your organization and trying to successfully inject it into one software program that will put it to work so you can manage your association nonprofit far more efficiently with communications and reports to make good business decisions. Data migration is the move, and the new application is the destination.

The Challenges With Keeping Your Database Clean 

Obstacles on the journey of data quality include the following:

  • Your existing data may contain duplicate information.
  • Demographic data is wrong such as items used to solicit funds from donors like wealth, age, & estimated income .
  • You lack pertinent email information for your email marketing campaigns.
  • The data you want to migrate may not be up to the task in meeting the structure and objectives of your new system.


According to one Oracle white paper on the integrity of databases (You may download below):

“Without a sufficient understanding of both source and target, transferring data into a more sophisticated application will amplify the negative impact of any incorrect or irrelevant data, perpetuate any hidden legacy problems, and increase exposure to risk.”

Even if the data migration is as basic as converting an Excel spreadsheet to an MS Access database, the challenge can be daunting. While the database application allows quick imports, the new structure calls for greater consistency. Otherwise you have what is known as the “garbage-in-garbage-out” phenomenon.


The situation becomes far more complex if upgrade plans include adopting a sophisticated association management software. The best advice is to give data migration the equal attention it deserves alongside selecting the new software package. The latter is, of course, far more exciting, but, according to the above mentioned White Paper:

“…data migration planning is seen as a simple matter of shifting data from one bucket to another via a process that is a necessary administrative burden and an extra cost. Thus, planning is often left until too late and the required resources and the difficulty of the migration are frequently underestimated.”

Advice For Keeping Your Database Clean From Garbage

Finally, how do you keep your migrated data clean and robust over the lifetime of the new software package? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Instill consistency rules in your organization and build them into your applications
  • Ongoing duplicate checking processes
  • Continually update and cleanse your database with a third-party tool or service provider 

If your nonprofit organization is looking to get its data act together, and wants to preserve the information you have without throwing out the good data you have lovingly curated through these years, contact us.

We’ll help you find the tools and services your need from trusted experts such as Updentity who can help with ongoing data quality that will no doubt make the most out of your engagement efforts.

Until next time, keep SmartThoughts in mind.

Data Quality Is the Killer for Database Integrity


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.