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Will Bad Data Kill Your Fundraising Campaign?

Ever filled out a form and mistyped your name or email address? We all have. Happens all the time. But forms don’t know you’ve made a mistake and that form was sent to a database when you hit ‘submit’.

Congratulations, you’ve just created another piece of junk data.

We’ve worked with hundreds of databases and found that fundraising data has a high degree of inaccuracy. (Our estimate is that at least 2% of names have some issue — and we’ve seen it as high as 50%).

Why should you care?

Let’s take a look at the ubiquitous name field. It can be everything or nothing. And a lot of the time that “everything” is going to cost you a response – which could mean a lost donation or sale.

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Here are just a few of the problems we’ve discovered over the years:

  • Inappropriate or private data is sometimes included; e.g.  “deceased”, “this person owes a lot of money”, “Anonymous”, Social Insurance Numbers in address, email in an address, birth date in an address, etc.
  • Foreign language characters are missing or garbled
  • Multiple donors exist in the data fields, but do not properly correspond to the Salutation or Company Name in the data

I’ve never personally been introduced to Mr. Deceased. But I have seen examples where he’s about to get a pitch for some money through the mail. And I can tell you right now, you’d have to be really, really persuasive for him to write a cheque.

That kind of mistake is embarrassing to an organization. But things can get a lot worse if private information like an email or a Social Insurance Number shows up on an envelope.

Another issue is duplicates. Unless Ms Sandborn and Miss Sadborn both happen to live at the same address, incorrect duplicate mailings can arrive on the same day. It’s not only additional cost, it’s also a big turnoff for the receiver.

So what can you do?

First ask yourself these important questions:

  1. Can you risk sending poorly addressed mail, with possible confidential or embarrassing information in the address fields?
  2. Can you afford to send multiple mail pieces because purges don’t remove duplicates effectively with poor name values?
  3. Can you afford to send a donor an acquisition mailing with an ask amount that is potentially less than they currently give, and says, indirectly, that you spend your direct marketing budget carelessly by mailing to existing donors?
  4. Can you afford to annoy donors by making them feel like you just don’t care who they are?

The next question you need to ask is how can you get your existing data to the point where you can be confident that it’s not going to cost you donors or waste your direct marketing budget?

And the answer to all of the above is to have somebody who knows what they are doing scrub your data on a regular basis. It may be a cost you haven’t budgeted for. But at the end of the day, good data makes great cents.

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