How To Perform a Database Cleanse

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By Alicia M. Lifrak, CFRE

When it comes to direct response, data is truly your most valuable asset. But far too often, nonprofit databases are filled with random (and often meaningless) fields while also failing to track and report on key data fields for the purpose of analysis and strategic planning.

Maximizing your data potential can make all the difference between a one-size-fits-all program with mediocre results and powerful, highly relevant communications that produce both donors and long-lasting, profitable relationships.
I always recommend starting with a robust data and hygiene effort for physical and digital data across the constituent database. Utilizing your database, initially you should perform:

  • Postal Processing. National Change of Address (NCOA), Delivery Point Validation (DPV), Locatable Address Conversion System (LACS), address standardization and postal sortation
  • Email Processing. Clean up and deduplicate.
  • Data Processing. Merge/purge, data append, and casing.
  • Data Append. Demographic, lifestyle, geographic, phone, and email data appends

Analysis is the key to determining proper acquisition segments. Trends are found in the demographic and transaction data that describes and characterizes past responders. Based on demographic and behavioral profiling, segments can be developed based on current responders with similar characteristics. These same variables can be used to select new acquisition segments that will have the highest likelihood of responding.

The list is credited with approximately 60% of a direct marketing campaign’s success — get it right and you are halfway home. Testing begins with broad based list segments that offer maximum coverage of the target market. Initial segments are typically defined based on broad demographics while avoiding pre-determined biases to affect results. Individual responders are then matched back to the original data source in order to analyze differences in the demographic profile of those most likely to respond. These same practices apply to both external and internal lists, and your ability to track and analyze is what leads to better growth and retention for your file.

An organization’s ability to develop longstanding and profitable relationships with constituents directly relates to its ability to deliver against increasing constituent expectations. Donors expect a seamless and frictionless experience across all communications, including direct response.

Today, we have seen that consumers expect engagement based on their behavior and will share meaningful insight into their channel preferences, engagement preferences and messaging preferences on a continual basis. The exhaust from this data can drive meaningful engagement activities. Our constituents also expect that all communications from organizations that they support are relevant and personalized on a one-to-one basis.

There are many things that are necessary for a successful direct response fundraising program but if you don’t start with data as your first asset, you may be leaving money on the table!

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