Cleaning data isn’t glamorous, but it can save you thousands of pounds and help you avoid really damaging PR.
Buying in data is a contentious issue, but a lot of charities rely on it to try and reach new potential donors. The problem is that it’s often old and inaccurate, leading to wasted spending on direct mail, SMS or email marketing, and even worse, can potentially lead to contacting deceased people.
Especially in the charity sector, where accountability in spending is so important, this can be a major issue.
Still, it can be tempting to avoid cleaning data, or at least to just do a surface clean. After all, deep cleaning can take a long, long time and requires resources that you might not have.
To really maximise your time spent on it, effective cleaning is vital. To help you in that pursuit, here are five top tips from Camelia Vasilcan (Database Manager at Children with Cancer):
- Apply a unique ID
Often called a unique reference number (URN), applying an individual ID to each record is essential for managing data accurately including and tracking any changes.
- Ensure accurate data capture and input
Create a guideline for data capture to improve basic data quality, ensuring that all required data fields are made mandatory, e.g. postcodes. Keep standards the same – Road or Rd, Limited or Ltd. This improves data cleaning accuracy and makes the processing time more efficient.
- Check your supplier and give them time
You will need to find a data cleaning bureau as they will have the external data resources required (i.e. deceaseds, gone-aways etc.) that will be matched to your data to identify what records need updating or suppressing. Take the time to investigate different data cleaning routines and choose the supplier who meets your needs – evidenced through case studies and testimonials. Then give them plenty of time to do the necessary checks etc. to ensure it’s done properly. This is an area where it’s definitely a case of ‘more haste, less speed’.
- Keep data secure
This isn’t just a consideration but an absolute requirement. Your supplier should provide you with a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) and a secure method of transferring your data. You should also encrypt your data.
- Little and often
Don’t leave yourself with a large data-cleaning bill annually when you can run monthly or quarterly cleans. Cleaning data more frequently cuts mailing costs and reduces wastage.
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