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What data rot means for nonprofits is that, as data becomes outdated: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


Data Migration: The Job of Moving Donor and Member Data


Data migration & Importing Data into Nonprofit Software

The time has come for a new donor database to help with your nonprofit’s growth. The good news is that your nonprofit may be growing. Your message is getting out there, people are flocking to your website, signing up for your events, spreading the word about the good work that you are doing. The bad news is that this growth is outstripping your homegrown software system’s capabilities. Like that proverbial swan (duck), you’re paddling like mad below the surface to keep that serene façade facing the world. In this article, we discuss the impact of data migration and having a good plan to import it into your new CRM tool at  your nonprofit.

Success in Data Migration


What is data migration? in short order, data migration is the process of transferring data between storage types, formats, or computer systems. It is a key consideration for any system implementation, upgrade, or consolidation.

Today, you must demand that your selected donor software provider assist your organization with donor data migration assistance. Fortunately, professional assistance in data migration is provided by most software vendors today including Tier IV fundraising software systems on the market today.

Key Terms in Data Migration: 

  • Legacy data is the recorded information that exists in your current storage system, and can include database records, spreadsheets, text files, scanned images and paper documents. All these data formats can be migrated to a new system.
  • Data migration is the process of importing legacy data to a new system. This can involve entering the data manually, moving disk files from one folder (or computer) to another, database insert queries, developing custom software, or other methods. The specific method used for any particular system depends entirely on the systems involved and the nature and state of the data being migrated.
  • Data cleansing is the process of preparing legacy data for migration to a new system. Because the architecture and storage method of new or updated systems are usually quite different, legacy data often does not meet the criteria set by the new system, and must be modified prior to migration. For example, the legacy system may have allowed data to be entered in a way that is incompatible with the new system. Architecture differences, design flaws in the legacy system, or other factors can also render the data unfit for migration in its present state. The data cleansing process manipulates, or cleans, the legacy data so it conforms to the new system’s requirements.

What Should you Expect from a Vendor in Data Migration? 

Here are some items you should consider when you invite a professional software company to partner with you on this important transition:

  • Be sure that you make the software vendor aware of any uniqueness of your data. A thorough and personalized review of your organization and its needs. Data software should be tailored to each nonprofit organization, rather than expecting the organization to bend itself in knots to fit the software program.
  • Be sure that you have a business plan in place to accommodate any changes which will take place with the new system. A business planning model will be developed to make certain that every aspect of your business processes is included in the data imported into and stored in the software solution. During this process, consultants are likely to make suggestions for improvements that you never would have thought about. This is the advantage of partnering with an organization that helps nonprofits review business models on a regular basis.
  • Be sure to agree on goals for the project. You must be sure that project goals are settled upon, agreed to, and a timeline is put in place. There will be a “cut off” when the old system’s data is cut. Be sure that your team is using the new system after this data in order to avoid costly re-keying of data.
  • Be sure to plan and plan again. Data conversion is carefully and thoroughly implemented, with opportunities for software and data checks to make certain that the process is going smoothly.
  • Be sure you all agree on the value of the data to migrate. Data value is a much harder variable in the decision process. Many times there are different perceptions concerning what value the existing data provide. If users are not working with older data in the current system, chances are they may not work with older data in the new system even with improved search functionality. If migrating, you may want to look at shorter-term date parameters – why bog down a system’s performance with data that are never used?
  • Be sure that the software implementation takes place on a system-wide basis. This means that when the software is implemented, attention is also given to the humans who are an integral part of your system. Rules must be put in place to be sure that the donor data or member data is being input correctly. With lots of training, testing and user support, you are not left alone to “fly by the seat of your pants” as you learn a new system which could help with ongoing data issues.

So if you are ready to migrate your data and processes to a bigger, better, more professional system, be sure to have a conversation with your selected donor database software vendor.