Nonprofit donor data hygiene: Why a clean up now means long-term benefits

on January 04, 2019

Has this ever happened to you...

You call an important donor to talk about your upcoming fundraising campaign, only to find out someone else at your nonprofit already talked to them last week. Or, maybe you sent out a direct mail flyer, only to have your flyers returned because your donors have recently moved.

These scenarios are the result of dirty data. And spending the time and effort to reach out in these situations, only to have to back-track, is just a waste of time and energy when you could be way more efficient and engaging with your supporter base.

The benefits to cleaning up your data

Cleaning up your data, or data hygiene, is super beneficial for so many reasons. Having better data leads to cleaner donor contact information which helps to lower marketing costs, increase response rates, create a better relationship with your supporters, and even save time in a huge way.

So, start fresh this year by using the following four tips to help clean up your data. Taking the time to do so now can make a really big difference in the New Year ahead.

Tip #1: Dedupe those contactsblg_dirtyData_2019_4_In-blog-Graphics

Duplicate contacts are a super common problem in almost all data. Usually the problem occurs when someone signs up multiple times under both their business and personal account, someone gets married, someone moves, etc.

Take the time now to gather all your duplicate contact information and narrow it down to the best possible entry so that you can delete the others and clean up your data. Often your email service provider or the company you are using for direct mail will offer this service automatically or with a small fee.

Now you won’t be wasting your budget sending the same piece of direct mail or email to the same person more than once.

Tip #2: Purge unengaged contacts

Maybe you have someone’s contact information because they attended an event with one of your long-time supporters. However, this particular attendee isn’t really all that interested in your nonprofit and it’s mission. Or, maybe you have emails that continue to bounce-back but you haven’t had the chance to dig in and remove them from your database.

When you get rid of these dead-end contacts, you’re focusing your efforts on supporters who are likely to read, respond, and act upon the correspondence you’re sending out. And, you’re not wasting money, time, or marketing efforts reaching out to a group of people who may not be interested in your cause.blg_dirtyData_2019_2_In-blog-Graphics

Another valuable benefit is that, by keeping your lists limited to engaged contacts, you’ll get better open and read rates, which all of the major email service providers track. Over time, that will improve your deliverability and hopefully keep your emails out of the dreaded Gmail promotions tab.

Tip #3: Think about a survey

We’ve used this one at CrowdRise by GoFundMe actually quite a bit. Our goal is to provide you with the resources you need to continue to grow your program and execute successful fundraising campaigns. So, with that being said, we’ve sent out surveys asking our contacts if they like the content we’re producing, what they’d like to see more or less of, and if they want to continue to receive the content we’re putting out.

Sure, you risk having people say no, they’d like to be taken off your list, but you’re also creating better, more honed-in engagement with those who do like the content you’re sending. Plus, you’re creating a more curated experience for them so that they find exactly what they need each and every time.blg_dirtyData_2019_3_In-blog-Graphics

The same goes for nonprofit contacts. Reach out with a simple survey that asks your supporters to verify their contact information (this helps with this duplicates,) or even asks them about the types of content they prefer to receive from you (donor appeals, upcoming events, early notice on fundraising initiatives), and even how often and where they’d like to hear from you (email, text, snail mail).

Not only does this help clean up your data, but it’s showing your customers that you want to provide them with the engagement that they’re looking for, and that you value them as supporters.

Tip #4: Segment your data

We love talking segmentation. Probably because we really believe in providing our customers with an experience that gives them the exact tools they need to be successful. So, why not think about your supporters in the same way?

Once your data is cleaned up, it’s worth it to take that next step to organize the information in ways that will create better engagement with your supporters. Segment supporters into high wealth donors, recurring donors, and even holiday-campaign-only donors.blg_dirtyData_2019_1_In-blog-Graphics-1And what about the other groups like fundraisers and volunteers? You can group supporters based off of the feedback you gathered from your survey. For instance, separating out the list of supporters who want to hear from you once a week from those who only want updates once a month.

When you talk to your groups of supporters in ways that are unique to their relationship with your nonprofit, you’re creating a level of engagement that compels them to go further with your cause.


Though it takes a bit of time to organize and clean up your data, it is one of those processes that will pay dividends in the end. And, the beginning of the year is a great time to dig in and tackle such a project.

Rilee Chastain

Rilee Chastain is the Content Marketing Specialist at CrowdRise. She is passionate about content optimization and all things social, and cares way too much about her Instagram aesthetic. She also has a life goal to eat mac and cheese at least 3 times a week.