Robin L. Cabral, MA, CFRE will lead you through the why and how of creating your own database standards manual and processes to ensure that you are not leading your organization down the path of “Garbage In=Garbage Out.” Consider it your legacy to your organization’s future revenue.

Full Transcript:

Steven: Okay, Robin, I got 1:00 Eastern. Is it okay if I go ahead and get this party started?

Robin: Hey, let’s go ahead.

Steven: All right, awesome. Well, good afternoon, everybody. Good morning, if you’re on the West Coast, I should say. And if you’re watching this recording, I hope you’re having a good day no matter when and where you are. We are here to talk about keeping your donor database healthy, wealthy, I should say wealthy and wise. I did put that in there because I’m not even presenting so I can make that on the fly. Basically, we’re here to talk about dirty donor data and how to prevent that. So you are in the right place, if you care about this topic. Thanks for being here. I’m Steven. I’m over here at Bloomerang. And I’ll be moderating today’s discussion as always.

And just a couple of quick housekeeping items before we get going, I just want to let you all know that we are recording the session. And I’ll be sending out the recording, as well as the slides later on today. You should actually already have the slides. But if I missed you, don’t worry, we will get that to you later on today. So if you have to leave early or maybe get interrupted, don’t worry, we’ll get all those goodies to you. But most importantly, a lot of you have already done it, but introduce yourself in the chat. Ask questions as we go along. We’re going to have a Q&A session at the end. So don’t be shy. We’d love to hear from you. Tell us how the weather is, what your organization does, anything fun you want to tell us. You can also do that on Twitter. There’s a Q&A tab, so put your questions in the Q&A tab. They might not get lost in the shuffle as much as the chat, but we’ll keep an eye on all of those things. So bottom line is we’d love to hear from you.

And if this is your first Bloomerang webinar, welcome. We do these webinars every single Thursday. We love it. And it’s one of our favorite things we do here at Bloomerang. If you’ve never heard of us beyond the webinars or you’re wondering what the heck is Bloomerang, we are actually a provider of donor management software. That’s what Bloomerang is. It’s a donor database, apropos to this topic. But check it out if you’re maybe interested in what we have to offer, maybe you’re thinking about switching. But don’t do that right now because one of my favorites joining us from my hometown of New Bedford, Massachusetts, one of the many reasons why Robin and I get along. Robin Cabral, how’s it going? You doing okay?

Robin: Hey, I’m doing just fine.

Steven: This is awesome to have you. You’ve been a stalwart on the webinars for Bloomerang for many years. And last time we had you, you were stuck in Australia . . .

Robin: I was, yeah.

Steven: . . . because of the pandemic, true story.

Robin: True story.

Steven: But now you’re back home, which I’m very happy for you because I was worried about you.

Robin: I’m back home. Yeah.

Steven: And it’s not 2:00 a.m. or whatever time it was when you did the last webinar. Yeah, the Whaling Museum in New Bedford. That’s right.

Robin: Yes.

Steven: They’re the whaling capital of the world at one point, right? Right, Robin?

Robin: Oh, yeah. Yeah. Oh, yeah. I’ve been to the Whaling Museum in New Bedford.

Steven: Good job, [inaudible 00:02:42].

Robin: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Cool. Cool.

Steven: But beyond being New Englanders, if you’ll don’t know Robin, dang, you got to check her out. She’s been doing this a long time, over 25 years of experience, helps a lot of organizations and including organizations in Australia, interesting little niche for her, great website and resources, we’ll connect all that stuff to you, and really is kind of our go-to for data cleanliness, data hygiene stuff. We’ve collaborated on some content. She’ll tell you about that. But, anyway, people don’t want to hear from me. I’m going to stop sharing. Robin, why don’t you . . .

Robin: Hey, all right.

Steven: . . . bring up those beautiful slides.

Robin: Let’s see if I can do this.

Steven: Here we go. Beautiful.

Robin: Hey, all right. Are we ready to rock and roll or what?

Steven: All right, take it away, my friend.

Robin: Hey, I’m shy. So I’m going to shut off my video, and then I’ll bring it back on later, okay?

Steven: Okay. Me too.

Robin: All right. Cool. Cool. Awesome. All right, everyone. I just love this topic. I call this Garbage In is Garbage Out. How many of you feel my pain? So as Steven was saying, I live in New Bedford, Massachusetts, and part-time in Mollymook Beach, New South Wales, Australia, curiously enough. So I own a company called the Development Consulting Solutions. I’m a certified fundraising executive. And I have my masters in philanthropy and fund development from St. Mary’s University of Minnesota. And I’m an MFIA. What the heck does that mean? A member of the Fundraising Institute of Australia. And I have 27 years working for and with nonprofits. And I’m on a mission to transform organizations through effective philanthropy. And I work with clients throughout obviously, now throughout the world. But the one universal global thing is that data, data is just bad. No matter where you go, the first thing you’re going to run into is, wow, just bad data. So this webinar is absolutely critical.

So here’s what we’re going to cover today, why clean data? Those of you who are probably like, “Duh, we already know this,” but let’s go over it because it’s important because you’re going to have to advocate for dedicating some time within your organization to cleaning up your data. So you got to make that case. How do you structure your database? What should it look like? And how do you enter it in so that it stays the same from year to year to year? And how do we keep it clean? And then, as Steven suggested, we have collaborated on, a while back now, a manual. It’s a donor management software policies and procedures template that Bloomerang and I kind of co-created and worked on together. And so, if Steven hasn’t made that available to you, I’m sure he can, or I can as well. And then I also threw in an article of mine that I wrote a little while back on how to keep your database clean and up to date.

So why, why do we need . . . I mean, do I have to stress why do we need this case for consistent, clean data? Why do we need it? Well, your database, I’ve said this, your database is like your brain, right? Like your fundraising brain. So it allows you to create reports around campaigns, appeals, events. I have a webinar on doing a development audit and assessment. And in order to do an audit and assessment, you have to know what your baseline data is so that you can create some goals around that and then benchmark against those goals. So you need to be able to compare apples to apples and not apples to oranges.

How many of you feel my pain out there? Just type in to the chat box. Yes, right? Like, yes. All right, so identify loyal donors who may be prospects for major and planned giving. I serve as interim development staff for organizations. Yes, I see them all. And so I’m working on developing a telemarketing program for monthly donor conversions for a group in Australia. And what am I doing? I’m looking at the donor base. For what? Recency and frequency. So imagine if you had bad data, right? That all would be off. So it determines strategy as well. How many of you . . . Yes, yes, yes. Keep the yeses coming if you feel my pain.

So what if a database is too expensive? I say, these days, it’s never too expensive. I’m not pushing Bloomerang, but it’s a very cost-affordable option. There are lots of other software systems out there, so no longer do you have to pay $20,000 to get Raiser’s Edge. You can have a database that fits your particular budget. So just keep that in mind. And they range. You can have the powerhouse to the basics. But I say don’t use Excel because guess what, Excel is not a database. It’s a spreadsheet. Yay. So products do exist out there. And just remember that. Excel is not a spreadsheet. It’s not a database. It’s a spreadsheet. Okay.

So now when I go into databases, what’s the number one thing I look at? I look at how is it structured, the big internal structure. And that’s when everything falls apart because then you see people have set up their campaigns wrong, their funds wrong, their appeals incorrectly. So there is a way to structure your database so that it is organized and consistent.

And so these are my definitions. These are just broad definitions. Every database, and maybe Steven wants to type into the chat box what Bloomerang uses to categorize these kinds of topical areas, but every database has the same kind of structure but may call it differently. But campaigns. You have three things, campaigns, funds, and appeals. And so campaigns to me, and, Steven, correct me if I’m wrong, campaigns are like that broad, general category. When I think of campaigns, you’re running three or four different kinds of campaigns. You are running your annual campaign, you may be running a capital campaign, and/or you may be running like an endowment campaign, or maybe even some kind of restricted gift campaign.

And when you look at funds, we look at things like funds are to me, they’re these categories of restricted and unrestricted funds. And then you may have something like scholarship funds, or the music fund, or something like that. So that’s how I define campaigns and funds. So make sure you have that clear. And then what about appeals? So you may have something called appeals, or activities, or whatever. And to me, that’s how you solicited the gift, so what prompted this gift? And appeals can be very specific things like your fall appeal, your calendar year-end appeal. It can be things like events. It can be your spring auction. It can be your golf tournament. Hey, grants. It could be your grants category for 2021. When I look at it, those are kind of like how did you solicit the gift? What prompted that gift?

Type into the chat box whether or not you kind of understand these campaign funds and appeals. “I get it,” okay, cool. Cool. Cool. “Making Sense.” Okay. How many of you out there . . . I love it. Oh, my gosh. You guys, don’t type so fast. How many of you out there have your database or came into your database and it was so not structured this way and you’re going like, “OMG?” Type into the chat box, “OMG, OMG, that was me.” All right. Oh my gosh, wow. That’s a big OMG fast in there. Look at that. Oh, Janet is creating our database now. Okay, so now you get it, right, Janet? Campaigns, funds, and appeals. And Katie too. “It’s awful.” Wow, gee. All right.

So here we go. So when you’re organizing your campaigns and appeals, think about it. Where will this fundraising money be used? That’s kind of like is it annual? Is it capital? Is it unrestricted? Is it restricted? And then funds should be categorized based on specific use, like scholarship funds, restoration funds, unrestricted, unsolicited, grant, whatever. If event or appeal is reoccurring, include the fiscal year. So I’ll do something like calendar year-end appeal 2020, calendar year-end appeal 2021, and make sure the naming conventions are consistent. How many of you went into your database when you first open it up and went, “Was that last year’s calendar year-end appeal? I don’t know. Oh, what about the year before? Maybe that’s it.” Yeah. Okay, I see this a lot. I mean, because I do interim fundraising for clients, I run their fundraising programs on a contract basis. So guess what? I’m in their database. Yikes. I feel the pain.

So annual appeals, don’t lose your donors before they open the envelope. So some things you can do is NCOA, National Change of Address on your database. You have to, number one, but do it regularly. Many mail houses and data systems. I don’t know if Bloomerang . . . does Bloomerang designate NCOA for their clients? I’m not sure.

Steven: Yup, every night we do it for free.

Robin: Every night?

Steven: Oh, yeah.

Robin: For free? Holy moly, everybody, look up Boomerang now, every night for free. So it’s updating your data file with changes of address. I mean, that is gold right there. So you have the most up-to-date address for each of your contacts. So you have that continuity of contact. Look at that. Check that out.

Now, 50% of people pay more attention to direct mail than to any other marketing channel. It is so obvious. That’s why it is important to keep your addresses clean. So here’s a great example of that. I go in and I look at clients who just use e-mail and send out their e-mail. And you know what the average open rate is? I don’t know what it is statistically nationally. But for most of my clients, it’s around 25%.

So imagine, only a quarter of the people that you’re sending your e-mail to . . . Amy, thank you, 23%, only a quarter are actually even opening it. Now, are they even paying attention to it? Who knows. But when you send a direct mail piece, every afternoon at 1:00, I just missed my one o’clock, I go to my mailbox. I’ve been doing it for what, 30 years, maybe even when I was a kid. I’d go walk out to my mailbox every day and get the mail for my parents. How many of you were like that? And you sift through the mail before you even start walking back to the door. We pay attention to our mail. That’s why direct mail is still important. And having correct information is absolutely critical.

So nothing is worse than mailing to a donor who’s passed away. So there’s also something called . . . and I don’t know, Steven, if Bloomerang checks this, the Social Security Death Index. That sounds bloody awful, doesn’t it? But you don’t want to be mailing to people that have exited this earthly sphere. We don’t want to do that. So these are ways to keep your data clean and make sure that your envelope gets open. There are places that you can do research. You can look up people in these different links, or you get software systems like Bloomerang who do it nightly for. And Steven, it says nightly deceased suppression. Holy cow. I don’t know. You’re selling me on this. That’s awesome.

So other times to remove a donor from a mailing list, sometimes, sometimes following a significant gift, but not all the time. The Veritas Group, if you don’t subscribe to their blog, you should because their blog is all about major gifts. And they put together an awesome blog. You want to subscribe to it because they say yes, you should send your major donors your direct mail. Absolutely. The one thing that I’m famous for saying is Veritas, Diane, don’t make assumptions for your donors. Don’t decide for them. Send them the mail. They’re going to tell you. They’re going to send the gift or they’re not. There you go.

So following a large campaign pledge, sometimes. Stacy out there knows who I’m going to reference in a second, but working with a client who just is finishing up a large campaign and when we have done their most recent direct mail pieces, we have suppressed from mailings large pledge donors who are in the middle of a very significant pledge.

And of course, how many of you, or how many of you will admit have forgotten to check off or exclude the do-not mails or do-not solicit requests? All the time. You need to do that. But how many of us forgot, have forgotten to do that? Just put me, me, me, so me. I know. “Me, I have.” “Me, I have done it.” Okay. So these donors may be contacted but in a very individual way and decide with your staff, your campaign cabinet the best approach, meaning major gift donors, pledged donors, and other people. If they’ve unsubscribed from your newsletter, does that mean they don’t want to be sent a direct mail? That’s another assumption. All right. So we kind of belabor that.

How do we enter data so that it’s utilized effectively? The number one thing that I see is no data consistency standards in databases. It goes for how we enter data, when we enter data, how it’s actually entered in. How many of you feel the pain on that one? Like street is sometimes spelled out. And then you’ve got St. And then you’ve got a donors last name in big capital letters and their first name and small. And then you go to do a mailing and you’re like, “Oh, gee. OMG, there it is. Oh, I got to fix this record.” I see, it irritates me. How many people . . . does it . . . Oh, it’s a nightmare, isn’t it? So it’s your data, protect it, clean it up.

Now, I get so cautious. I’m Portuguese. Steven knows we live in a very highly descendants of Portugal here. So I’m going to say I get [foreign language 00:19:56]. It’s like I get chest pains when I hear a client say to me, “I’m giving all of our board members access to the database, and they’re going to go in and enter donor data,” or, “I’m having one of these volunteers or a high school student come in and enter donor data.” And I’m like, ” [foreign language 00:20:19].” So there should be one person who is trained and who is the person who does all of the donor data. And what we’re hoping for is that it must be entered consistently and properly.

So like Laura here is saying, “Doesn’t NCOA end up capitalizing everything?” It may. But I mean, consistently, you determine if we’re going to keep capitalization, then we keep it for everyone so our records all matter, are all the same.

Improperly entered data can cost is what? We all know this, wasted time, lost efforts, all of those kinds of things. So a lot of vendors like Bloomerang, I get a weekly e-mail, I think it’s on Fridays, with all the training that’s available for the database. And so take advantage of that.

Now, in some cases, you may have someone else who is cross-trained to enter the data. Make sure that you indoctrinate them into your data consistency standards. And you get that manual as part of this webinar. So make sure that you actually train them. They go through a training. And remember, maybe you want to actually have them sign off on a confidentiality form. How many of you actually do that? So make sure you remind them that donor information is highly confidential.

And for me, board members are just volunteers out there that have not been trained, I should qualify that statement right there and say who have not been trained to enter data is inappropriate. Do not set someone lose. It’s like the person, the cartoon that’s the whirly gig. I can’t remember his name. It’s like a tornado, and he’s going around in rooms. That’s the same exact thing when you let someone into your database . . . Taz, yes. Thank you, Amanda, when you let someone into your database and they’ve not been trained. How many of you feel like that, or cringe when your executive director goes, “Let’s just ask some of these high school students that come to after school?” OMG. So someone who’s not a stakeholder may take costly shortcuts. I love that. Tasmanian devil. That’s Australian, Tasmania. Oh my gee.

So ensure consistency of that donor data entry. So have a procedure. We, Steven, Bloomerang, and I, are giving you a data consistency manual of sorts. How many of you out there have a data consistency manual right now? Yes or no? Type in to the chat box. “Nope.” All right. After today, after today, you have one. You can’t say nope anymore. All right, you’re going to get one. They’re going so fast, Steven. The link just went right off and on my screen. Look at that. So set a standard procedure for data entry. Hey, if you want all caps, have all caps, but make sure the person entering in the data knows that.

Make sure that you use proper salutations. Make sure that informal is actually informal. What does that mean? Define it in your manual. What does a formal salutation look like? Give examples in your manual.

Primary addresses, check the postal processing requirements. Why do we say that? Someone said what’s the difference between St. and Street? There is because, guess what, the Postal Service will deliver mail quicker if you meet their processing requirements and standards. So go online, Google, how many of you have googled the Postal Service processing requirements and know what they are?

And I believe in the Bloomerang manual we put together I did use those standards. Bookmarked. Okay, all right. Yep. Yep. I see some of you are doing that. How many of you are not looking at the U.S. Postal Service standards? That means that your mail is going to be sent faster and quicker. It’s going to meet those standards.

So regularly update contact information, email addresses, and telephone numbers. So I’m going to give you some suggested reports that you can run on a weekly, monthly, bi-monthly, annual basis to do data checks. How many of you do regularly scheduled data checks, have some checks and balances and a system of reports for your database? Type in yes or no. So avoid nicknames. I don’t like them. Use full names. Use fields provided for alternate names if you can for those nicknames. And determine what data do you really, really need to keep. Wow, that seems overwhelming. Nope, nope.

Now, there are folks that do data assessments. You can do a data assessment. You can print out your data file or you can look at it and get an assessment of the health of it overall. How many of you did that on your first day and went, “Oh, no, another one?” It’s not that hard to figure out how good data is or how bad it is. How many of you said that?

So what would you like to know about your data? So there’s a couple of things. Preferred method of contact, how often you want to contact them? And if they tell you, you better honor that. You may want to know things like their volunteer interest, their history. Certainly, you want to record all of this in your database. And most databases today can be customized, even though they come somewhat canned. There’s lots of customization options available for them.

So we need rules. I know you’re probably sitting there saying, “I don’t have time to develop these rules.” But imagine, this is like Nirvana, you walk into an organization and they developed rules ten years ago. And they cleaned up all their data. And they have a data standards manual. And their volunteers and their staff who are using it are all cross-trained. And the data is pristine. And you sit down at your desk and you’re ready to go. How much time is that going to save you now? How many people are like, “That’s a Nirvana. And I wish I had that.”

So things like . . . and some of this comes from the postal standards, USPS. North is N. Oh look at that, I have a spelling error too like Steven did. Soutwest becomes Southwest. Street types, this is the U.S. Postal Service, should be Ave, Boulevard, Street, Avenue. You pick one but use the postal regulation, and I believe it’s St, and Blvd, and Ave for U.S. Postal. Does anyone know offhand what that is? States postal requirements, look at that. Whoever put that in the chat box, there’s the link to that. You can write them out or you can use the abbreviations, again, default to the postal requirements. The post office loves, loves, loves it when you use a zip+4. As musch, look at that, another spelling error. Oh geez, musch, as musch as possible, 00850-6641.

How many of you are like, “Oh, I know but I hate looking it up. I hate looking it up”? That’s me. All right, I admit it. Okay. Post Office Box should be PO Box or PO Box G. That’s how they should be written. Someone put the link in. Look at this. Ah, U.S. Postals. Thank you, Amy. USPS says never use the period. Guess what? Because it’s machines that read the mail and periods. Periods don’t work too well with machines. Look at that. Lucille has given us some references. She’s given us the USPS abbreviations and a zip code look up. I should add that in here. That would be great, huh, Lucille. Cool, cool, cool.

All right. So here’s some other rules. Abbreviate apartment to Apt, suite, Ste. These are all in that USPS Postal Service regulations abbreviations. Schools and businesses should be written out in full, MSU versus Montclair or Montclair State University. Common prefixes, we all know those. But sometimes we get confused, don’t we? And as someone was saying, Atty, no period for the Postal Service. It doesn’t like periods. Okay. And there’s some common suffixes. Okay. All right.

Now you all know my common suffix of MFIA. Quiz, what does it mean? Quick, someone type in to the chat box. Were you paying attention? Let’s see. No googling.

All right, so some databases actually have a notes field that you can track some notes in. And you can record things like interactions. Maybe you sent someone a note, or you made a call, or you sent them an email and you can put in that person who actually did that. Now, imagine Nirvana. Look at that. Laura, no. Anne, wrong. Jessica, okay, cool. Yep, Member of the Institute of Fundraisers of Australia. Kind of close. All right, you got it.

All right, here we go. So once you have that data clean and we’re in Nirvana sitting there and going, “Well, it’s nice and clean.” Now, how do we keep it clean? Well, number one, duplicate check. I have a client right now that has a different database system than the person who’s company that’s hosting this. I won’t mention the names. And they don’t have a built-in email system. All right, so they have to interface, integrate with another email system, and another landing page system, and another this and that.

So what happens? When someone goes online and enters a gift in on that landing Page, that donate page, guess what, sometimes creates a duplicate in the data file, all right, because it just doesn’t integrate well. So duplicate checks on an ongoing basis. This online gift could trigger a duplicate. Accidents happen. So you don’t want to be sending out . . . duplicates are so past. What’s the saying when they say, “Duplicates are like so passe. They’re so like history”? These kinds of things, sending out two mailings should not be happening anymore. They just shouldn’t. Not with today’s database systems. I hate the word shouldn’t, but it’s true. We look really unprofessional when we’re sending out the duplicates.

So create queries and reports. Now, here’s the other thing I’m going to throw in there. And I don’t know if I have a slide. But I like to be impromptu. How many of you have gone into your queries, in your ports and gone, “What happened here? There’s like 200 of them.” How many of you? How many of you are like, “Horrors?” Like someone just created a query just to test something, and they never deleted that. So clean up regularly. Set a reminder on your calendar or something to clean up your queries and your reports so that you don’t have 200 of them the next time you go in there.

So here are some examples of queries that you can do. Things like people living in the same zip code. You can do a query on those that gave to the annual appeal. I created the Bloomerang template for a client and passed it along. I was hired to go in and clean up their database. I was like the enforcer. It was so cool. And I went through and I just said to them, “Okay, what are the commonly run queries that you use? And what kinds of reports do you need on an ongoing basis? And we are going to get rid of everything else and just keep those.” And so every so many months, quarterly, I’d go in and I check. And wouldn’t you know, lo and behold, there was more queries and more reports in the database. And what did I do? Deleted them. I got rid of them. It was so liberating. It was so freeing to not have all of that stuff just hanging around.

So here are some examples of reports that you should be looking at for data cleanliness. That’s where we are right now. Okay. Data quality review monthly of all accounts created. So run a report of all the new accounts created or whatever you call your donors each month. And check all of the data fields to make sure, number one, that you’re not missing something, and number two, that the data meets quality standards that you’ve defined.

The other important thing is looking at expiration dates of credit cards, particularly those of you who have a robust or a growing monthly giving program. You want to do that monthly to stay on top of it. Do a duplicate report monthly, particularly if your systems, your email system is not integrated. You certainly want to do that. I know this seems like a lot. But if you create these reports to start off with, all you have to do is make yourself a reminder and press a button. Okay. Simple as that.

Transaction reports monthly. You want to examine campaigns, funds, and appeals. Are we keeping them consistent? Are we using the right ones? I have a client right now that emails out every day a donor transaction report of all of the transactions for the day. And everyone on the fundraising team can take a look at each transaction and make sure that they are coded accordingly.

Which reminds me, when I think about coding, how many of you have walked into a database and it has 6000 constituent codes? How many of you? That’s the worst, right? That’s another thing. I don’t know what you call it in your particular donor file, clean those up to the bare bones minimum of constituent codes.

And look at security and account access yearly, if not more than that. How many of you, embarrassing, how many of you still have staff who left the organization or were terminated, still have access to your database? How many of you? How many of you? Put yes or no. How many of you? Or have volunteers that have long since gone who still have access? How many of you have not checked your access? I’m looking. “Last year . . . ” Okay, yes. Someone defined [inaudible 00:38:11]. Not checked. How many of you have not checked your security access? Have not looked at it? Up to date. Okay. I see Sam on other webinars. Haven’t I Sam?

All right. Relationship reports for accuracy. I knew it, Sam. All right, relationship reports for accuracy, other relationships. Hey, maybe someone got divorced and they’re no longer husband and wife. How many of you update that on an ongoing basis?

Out of day queries, we talked about that and I would say reports as well that you’re not using. Get rid of it. I’m like the Marie Kondo of databases. Get rid of the stuff you’re not using. Please look at it monthly.

And keep up to date with the database training, if it’s offered. Look at it. I mean, stay up to date. Things are changing all the time in our databases. These companies like Bloomerang, they are listening to your feedback, and they are making modifications to make your life easier, simple, and to boost your bottom line fundraising results, retention results, all the key metrics. So stay up to date with them. Know what the new features are. Know what the best practices are. Subscribe to their blog or their newsletter. And obviously stay up to date. Okay.

So if you do not have that data entry manual, and I love to say on all my webinars, Sam will probably concur, I love to give stuff away. So you walk away from my webinars with a data consistency and a data standards manual. You can take it back and you don’t have an excuse anymore to say, “I don’t have one.” You have one. So a database manual will allow you to create a standardized procedure for data entry. You will have that. And because you have it now and everybody’s trained in it, you’re going to reduce those mistakes, get rid of those duplicates, and you’ll be able to because in your data manual you should talk about how do we organize campaigns, appeals, and funds, and events or whatever you call them. But you should document that organizational basic foundation structure for your database.

This is a true story. I had a staff member that . . . I was going to say, if you have a staff member that gets hit by the bus . . . how many of you have used that saying, “If you have a staff member that gets hit by the bus, someone else can just pick up the manual and walk into your database and know how to keep it clean, know how to enter in data, all of that?” Well, I had a staff person who wasn’t hit by a bus, but she tripped on a sidewalk and was out of work for three months. All right, and she was our data entry queen. Okay.

All right, there you go. So having a manual is important. I love that. If one of my staff won the lottery and left, hopefully they wouldn’t win the lottery and leave. Hopefully, they win the lottery and stay because they love working for you so much because you’re the best boss, and they would donate some of that back.

All right. So this database manual provides a clear outline for your organization. And it should include things like . . . you’ll see the data template, profile management, transaction management, interaction management, and report management. Those are the main categories that your data manual should have. And profile management is all about how we enter data consistently, how we avoid duplication, and how we regulate that donor entry.

The transaction manual portion of the manual should be about how we enter funds, how we structure campaigns and appeals. So that way, when you’re looking for information when you need it, you can find it. And then there’s a section called report management. And that section should outline things like giving history, event history, donor interaction, and next steps. And then there’s the interaction management that outlines gift acknowledgments, online gift management, letter templates, contacts, all those kinds of things.

So actually, I’m not sure if . . . I actually have to look at that manual. I don’t remember seeing if it includes a section on policies and procedures. Yes, it does. It does. All right. In addition to having a manual, how many of you actually have a gift processing policy? Like it outlines step by step when a gift enters in. It goes first to the receptionist who opens up the mail, date stamps it and does all that stuff. Then it routes itself to finance. And then from there, she makes two copies and sends it on to development, who then data enters, whatever that policy might be.

And then . . . nope, nope, I’m seeing some of you that say . . . it’s being tracked together. No, we’re on the right track. Yes, this procedure is so important. Okay. Anyone else? “We have it in our development office policies.” Okay. “Nope.” Okay, all right. “Nope.”

Okay. How about a gift reconciliation procedure? And some database systems, data and accounting systems, can interface and talk with each other. But how many of you make sure that you do some kind of reconciliation on an ongoing basis? Yes, Leeann. They do that with their finance because guess what, the board of directors, you know those people, they don’t care what the development numbers say. Oops, did I say that? You know whose numbers they look at at the board meeting? They look at the finance numbers. What numbers are king the board? The finance numbers. So how many of you? So your numbers, bottom line numbers, my friend, yes, sir, yes, ma’am, how many of you make sure that your numbers and finances numbers reconcile? That’s absolutely critical.

So making sure that you do some kind of ongoing monthly reconciliation of your donor database is absolutely critical. And don’t wait for six months. How much of a bear that process that is to find gifts six months later is when you’re like five pennies off? Do you know how difficult that is, six months later worth of gifts? OMG. So do that monthly. Have some kind of process in place monthly.

So wow. We have like 10 minutes left. Leeann is saying, “Do you have a successful procedure to teach finance and [inaudible 00:46:13] pledges count?” Might have a gift acceptance policy with something in it about pledges somewhere in my brain.

So here’s I hope what you learned. How many of you learn something in this webinar? Ensure consistently clean data in a professional data system. We recognize that they are very inexpensive these days. So that’s no excuse. How many are going to go back to your department and say, “Hey, Excel is not a database”? Just put quotations from Robin. Organize your campaigns and appeals and why, like why is that structure so critical? So that’s the first step. You’ve got to get that backbone. I call it the skeleton of your database in place first, campaigns, appeals, and funds or campaigns, funds, and appeals. And then you need to enter in your data consistently. If it’s St, make sure it’s St. And use the postal service because guess what, we want our mail zipping along, especially at Christmas and the holiday time, calendar year-end when everybody’s in the mail stream. All right. And then having some ongoing reporting and keeping that data clean, so having cleanliness reporting, and then the importance of . . . and you don’t have to think too hard because you get the manual. So just thank us all, you get that data entry manual.

So with that, how will you use this information, emotional and informational lecture? Do you know why I’m so emotional about this? Because every single client almost I have yet to find in my life, if I find one, if I find one database that I go into and it’s clean, I will retire tomorrow. I will retire the next day. All right, it’s like winning the lottery. It’s like that difficult. How many you feel like it is like winning the lottery. So I will retire the next day. I will be in Nirvana, database Nirvana. So all right, I’m going to call Steven back on and see if we have any questions that I can answer. And let’s see. And if anyone doesn’t have any questions, if they want to share what they’re going to . . . place immediately. And here I am. Look at that. I took off my jacket and it got so sweaty.

Steven: Yeah, you’re getting fired up. I’m not surprised. Dang. It’s getting hot just listening to you too. Thanks, Robin. That was awesome. And don’t worry folks, we have Robin on every year. I would not let a year go by without her. She’s got to have one of those 50 spots or whatever. Robin, that was awesome. Thank you. You’re speaking my language. Obviously, I’m kind of a database guy, if folks didn’t know that already.

But listen, if you don’t use Bloomerang, that’s cool. You can still do all this stuff and you should. No problem. But grab that free manual. I’ve put it in the chat a bunch of times. It is vendor agnostic. If you’re on Neon, eTap, Raiser’s Edge, Donor Perfect, you can use that. And if you download it, by the way, we don’t ask for your email address so we won’t bug you. It’s not a trick or anything. We just love you all very much. So download it. Robin, we got a lot of questions. One of my favorites just popped up in here, how long do you keep data? Are you a fan of deleting old data? What’s your take on that?

Robin: I’m not. And here’s my tip. I’m a fan of making it inactive. But I’ve worked in so many places that we get a $250,000 bequest one day, and we were like who was Mrs. Smith? And we can go back to the gift history and realize Mrs. Smith in 2006 gave $10 once. So we have that historical. What I’m a fan of is using data as try to do like a warm acquisition or a re-engagement strategy. So if people haven’t given it a number of years or what have you, I’m a fan of, “Let’s try to re-engage them and try to use some techniques around that. And then if we can’t re-engage them, then maybe put them into an inactive or tag them in as inactive and don’t mail to them at all or infrequently,” maybe just once a year, what have you, so using different strategies around that.

Steven: I’m right with you. A lot of these databases. Bloomerang included, you can just mark someone as inactive. They stay in there. That’s nice. I know a lot of the programs charge by how many people you have [inaudible 00:51:24]. That could be tempting. And you’re going to think I’m biased because I work at one, but, again, you never know when that data . . .

Robin: Yeah, you just never know.

Steven: It’s hard.

Robin: Yeah. Yeah. Someone was just saying, “How about old alumni?” Well, I’m like, “I don’t know. Wouldn’t you use alumni lists for other things as well?” I don’t know what they’re using their CRM for, but I would keep them in there. You’d want to know who are your alumni within the same CRM. Okay, so there’s a specific Bloomerang question.

Steven: Yeah. Bloomerang questions, I’ll handle because other people probably don’t care if it was Bloomerang. But here’s a good one, what do you think about honorariums, Robin? Mr. and Mrs., Mx? It seems like if you’re not real confident in someone’s gender identity that maybe that can be a potential pitfall to use those. What do you think, Robin?

Robin: Yeah. Yeah, that’s a great question. So, yeah. The worst thing that you could do is get someone’s . . . there’s two things, well, three things, four things. You can send mail to people that have left this earthly sphere, as I call it, deceased, you can send people who do not want mail and you send it to them, you can send people with their name incorrectly or if you decided to abbreviate their first name from Alexandria to Alex and they prefer Alexandria, boo, boo, and then getting someone’s gender wrong. That happens to me because Robin in some countries like Australia, England, Robin is a name for a male. So I will often get addressed as he or him. So, yeah, I think that’s just, “No, I’m a woman. Let’s get that right.” Getting rid of the Mr. and Mrs. salutation, yeah, that goes to what is your formal, what is your informal salutations? And I prefer if we’re talking to friends and our donors are our friends that we use informal like dear Bob and Jane. No prefixes. Look at that, people are just answering. I can’t keep up. What other questions do we have?

Steven: That’s right. The Bloomerang crew. I’m telling you, they’re good.

Robin: Yeah. Singular, they for everyone. Singular, they for everyone. I’m not getting. Does the post office do well with the name on two lines? Like some couples need a mailing labels. You may want to check the postal regulations. I mean, they have them all right online because guess what, they want you to make their job easy. So go to the post office. People have been posting that link. Someone else want to post it for folks again, USPS, and just look at the postal standards that they require for mail. Anyone else have questions?

Steven: Yeah, there’s a couple in here, Robin. Probably got time for one more. If we didn’t get to you, Robin, how can folks reach out to you?

Robin: Oh, sure. Let’s just see here.

Steven: Oh, there you go. Cool.

Robin: There’s my website. My email address . . . that’s really bright blue, isn’t it? My phone number. And I have a Twitter account, and LinkedIn, and Facebook, and yada, yada, yada, yada.

Steven: Yeah, great Facebook group, by the way.

Robin: Okay, someone’s in it. It’s the Nonprofit Survive . . . and this was pre-pandemic, folks. This was in 2018 I think I developed this Facebook group, Nonprofits Survive and Thrive Facebook group. Jenny, did you learn about the webinar in the Facebook group? So, yeah, so Nonprofits Survive and Thrive? That was pre-pandemic. So I bet you a lot of people during the pandemic went for that name and went, “Oh, that Robin, she got it.” All right, what’s the question? Sorry about that.

Steven: Appeal codes, what’s your take? Is it separate appeal codes every time?

Robin: Yeah. I don’t have a set thing on appeal codes because I really think you need to develop a standard for things. And whatever that standard is, be consistent. So if it’s going to be spring appeal 21, SPR21, then make sure spring appeal 22 is SPR22. So have some kind of naming conventions but make them consistent. Does that make sense?

Steven: Yep. No matter what your format is as long as it’s consistent.

Robin: Yeah, exactly. I mean, I’ve seen spring appeal, spelt out, 21. Whatever that is, just make sure that it’s consistent. That’s a pet peeve of mine is inconsistencies in data. Anything else?

Steven: Well, we’re almost time. I don’t want to keep people too long. But reach out to Robin if we didn’t get to your question. And reach out to me if you are a Bloomerang user with very Bloomerang specific questions. I was trying to keep up with them in the chat. But if I missed you, just email me or reply to the email that you’re going to get from me in a couple hours with the recording and the slides. You’ll see that.

Robin: Cool.

Steven: And, Robin, this was awesome to have you. Thanks for doing this once again.

Robin: It’s so good to be back in such an important topic that I am super passionate about. As I say, I’m in databases every single day. And it doesn’t matter if it’s Bloomerang, Donor Perfect, Network for Good, Little Green Light, it’s the same problems over, and over, and over again.

Steven: Funny how that works.

Robin: Yeah, it’s like a pet peeve. So thank you for having me back, Steven.

Steven: Anytime.

Robin: And hopefully you’ll get to New Bedford soon.

Steven: I need to. And now that you’re back in the States, I’m also happy for you that you’re not stranded there, although I know Australia is very lovely.

Robin: It is.

Steven: So thanks for doing it. And thanks to all of you for hanging out. I know you’re probably busy. Maybe you’re wrapping up your fiscal year. So I really appreciate seeing a full room. We got one more webinar before the kind of the mid-year point of the year. We’re going to finish strong with our buddy, Kristal Frazier.

Robin: Cool.

Steven She’ll talk about email, social media, some digital communications. It’s going to be a good one. I think it’ll help you with the second half of the year. So be there next Thursday at noon Eastern. Bring a sandwich, bring a bowl of soup, or a salad, or some sushi takeout. Grab some lunch and hang out with us, and probably breakfast if you’re on the West Coast. That’s cool too. But look for an email from me with the recording and the slides. We’ll get all that good stuff to you later today. And hopefully, see you next week. So have a good rest of your Thursday. Have a good weekend. Stay safe. Stay cool. Watch out for those storms. There’s going to be some storms brewing. So be careful out there. And we’ll talk to you again soon. Bye now.

Robin: All right, make it a good day.

Steven: See you.

Robin: See you later.

Kristen Hay

Kristen Hay

Marketing Manager at Bloomerang
Kristen Hay is the Marketing Manager at Bloomerang. From 2018 - 2020, she served as the Director of Communications for the Public Relations Society of America's local Hoosier chapter. Prior to that she served on several different committees and in committee chair roles.
Kristen Hay