New Year, New Database Clean-up: Part 3

For the final installment of database clean-up, let’s talk about required fields. We often think to ourselves, “why do I need to mark any field as ‘required?’ Doesn’t everyone know that you need to include an addressee in every individual record?” Yes, any savvy development professional and database user knows that in order to create a mail merge, you need to include fields like addressees and salutations, but the idea of required fields is not always that simple. It’s about ensuring the accuracy of your data.

With staff turnover, new users and multiple staff members with the ability to edit constituent records, there is always room for human error. If someone has a whole stack of updates to make and is feeling rushed for time (and let’s be fair, who hasn’t?), it’s easy to forget a field here and there. Before you know it, you are exporting your next annual appeal mailing list and important information is missing. This is where required fields come in.

Based on the needs of your organization, create a list of required fields for your constituent records. These can be different for individual and organization records, of course. Typical fields that are required could be Last Name, Prefix, Addressee, Salutation,  and Constituent Code, among others. However, your organization might have needs that go beyond these required fields. For example, in some organizations, it could be really important to know in which county the donor lives so you can include them in communications about local affinity groups. In Raiser’s Edge, the county field is slightly “hidden” within the address tab and is not located on the constituent landing page with the address. To make sure every address added or changed includes this information, why not make it required?

Obviously, the idea is not to make every single field required (that would be a nightmare); but by strategically thinking about your data and how it is inputted, you have a greater chance of successful exports and reports.

Do you have additional questions about data clean-up? Send an email to for help!

New Year, New Database Clean-up: Part 2

Here we are at Database Clean-up Part 2. Can you believe it’s already the second week of 2019? As you think about your calendar of annual solicitations for 2019, what pieces of information did you find yourself correcting or double-checking over the last year?

My guess is that if you’re sending letters — and let’s be real, who isn’t mail merging letters? — you have noticed at least few inconsistencies in your addressees (Mr. and Mrs. John Smith) and salutations (Mr. and Mrs. Smith). So, to help break down how to work through this, below are a few questions to ask yourself (and your colleagues):

  • How many different types (or formulas) of addressees and salutations do we need; and is our database currently set up this way? Perhaps you want a formal “Mr. and Mrs. First Name Last Name” addressee and also an informal “First Name” salutation. Perform an audit to see if you are following your own rules within the database or if you need to set new templates.
  • What are the different titles and suffixes available in your database — and are there any misspellings or duplicates? Everyone has Mr., Mrs., and Dr., among many others; but check to see if maybe there is “Mss” instead of “Miss” or if all of your titles (that require punctuation) have punctuation. You may be surprised to find “Mr.” and “Mr” being used. Punctuation is also big with suffixes. If your organization has a style guide, make sure your database mirrors that. For example, some organizations use “Ph.D.” while other use “PhD” and whatever you choose, just be consistent. Once you change those oddballs, make sure to remove the titles you will no longer be using.
  • How can we ensure that these changes and new formats/templates are followed going forward? Document your processes and procedures. Whether it’s a master document somewhere in your department’s shared files or a giant poster in the office (kidding, but not really), make sure others know how and why these rules have been set.

Good luck and happy mail merging with clean data! See you next week for more clean-up projects!


New Year, New Database Clean-up: Part 1

Happy New Year! Congratulations, you survived the end of the year! I hope you’ve taken at least a few minutes to reflect on the amazing work you’ve done to advance your organization’s mission through year-end fundraising. You deserve a pat on the back (or two… and maybe a nap).

This time of year is great for reflection. What worked last year? What didn’t? What’s the new or continued focus of your fundraising? And just as important, what will you do to ensure the integrity of your data? Now, let’s talk database clean-up.

Over the next few weeks, I will provide easy-to-digest ways to prioritize and tackle database clean-up. This week, let’s get back to the basics.

Update any and all new or undeliverable addresses you received.

First and foremost, remember that stack of returned mail you received from your year-end solicitation that have “return to sender,” “undeliverable,” or change of address information? Make sure to check, update and mark each one in your database. If you use a printer or direct mail company to send out your appeals, make sure to get the list of address changes and invalid addresses from your mailing. Isn’t it great when they can supply an updated address?

If an “undeliverable” does not include a new address, take some time to locate a new address either through your research tools (such as LexisNexis for Development Professionals) or even Google. Those few extra seconds to find updated information are so valuable in keeping your donors and prospects connected to your organization. Remember, it’s much more cost-effective to retain donors than find new ones, so don’t mark donors as “invalid address” unless your search comes up empty.

Likewise, if the trail of breadcrumbs comes to an end and you can’t find the new information, mark the donors appropriately. You will save yourself time and money in the long-run by not continuing to mail to undeliverable addresses and not trying to locate the updated address all over again for your next mailing.

Are you short-staffed or don’t have the resources to locate new information or develop a database clean-up schedule? Contact Brittany at for help you tackle these critical projects!

Stay tuned for the next segment of database clean up next week.

Lastly, I’d like to give a shout out to my longtime friend and colleague Heather Barber (of Corning Community College) for her suggestion to feature database clean-up this month!


As those year end solicitations continue…

Again, I’m taking a break from bombarding busy fundraisers with ideas for strategy and planning to reshare a piece shared by the Association of Fundraising Professionals earlier this year on Grey Matter Research’s and research panel Opinions4Good’s (Op4G) The Donor Mindset Study VII:  Cutting through the Noise. (Don’t worry, I’ll be back with new content in the new year when there is more breathing room.)

It’s a good reminder that “the average American charitable donor reports receiving about eight mailings and ten emails from nonprofit organizations in a typical week.  A majority of these communications come from organizations they don’t financially support.” Of course, this time of year is the exception and we are all receiving well over eighteen communications per week.

However, even with that volume of communication, donors and prospects are paying attention. According to the study, “on average, about 78% of what they receive from charities they financially support gets at least a little attention, along with about 58% of prospecting communications.”

That sounds like good news to me, so keep powering through to January 1!

Happy holidays!


Generational Giving

I know, I know – we are within weeks of the end of the calendar year (and fiscal year for some). No one has time to review the latest giving reports and statistics to see how their organizations size up with the current trends. Instead, I’d like to share an interesting infographic created by the Blackbaud Institute that provides a quick and easy snapshot of generational giving in the U.S.

Take a break from checking those online donations, writing holiday cards, making follow-up phone calls, and of course opening the piles and piles of direct mail responses you received in the mail to view Blackbaud’s The Next Generation of American Giving report that includes Millennials, Generation X, Baby Boomers, Matures, and even a glimpse into Generation Z. (A full report is also available.)

Happy reading and best wishes for a terrific end of the year!