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This is a guest post by Laura Maker, Director of Professional Services at Cloud for Good. Cloud for Good specializes in helping non-profits and higher education institutions realize the transformational value of Salesforce on their donor management, volunteering, and fundraising initiatives. This article examines the ramifications of poor data on non-profits.

What is bad data costing your organization?

IBM estimated that the yearly cost of bad data is $3.1 trillion in the US alone (Source: HBR). That number is staggering! But what does that actually mean for nonprofit organizations, schools and universities?

Suppose you are a major gifts officer making phone calls to a list of prospective donors. You may find that someone on your list has an outdated phone number, and you need to check your email to find the correct number. Another person has a duplicate record, and you need to look up the other record to make sure you have updated information. Another may have outdated information about the donor’s workplace and job title. For each of these errors, you must hunt and peck to find the right information to do your job.

Those errors cost time and effort. It is estimated to cost 10 times as much to complete a piece of work when the input data are defective as when they are perfect, or as close to perfect as you can get (Source: HBR). Given that the largest expense of most nonprofits is staff salaries, that means bad data is costing your organization valuable staff time lost.

Bad data also puts a drain on your return of any marketing or fundraising efforts. Let’s say you send an annual appeal letter to a list of 2,000 donors. You expect a response rate of 40% and an average gift of $100. If your data is perfect, your gross revenue will be $80,000. But if 20% of your address information is defective and cannot be delivered, your revenue drops to $64,000. A simple case of bad data just cost you $16,000. As the data size scales up, so do the costs.

Fear not, there are solutions to this vexing problem. Salesforce and third-party tools can help you prevent duplicates, clean up existing data, and even enhance the data you have.

Duplicate Cleanup Tools

Various third-party tools can identify potential duplicates in your Salesforce system using matching rules that you can configure. This allows you toreview and merge duplicates based on your criteria. You can control which record is the master, and how the data is combined onto that master record. Some tools, like Ringlead, also allow users to see potential duplicates from a Lead or Contact page, making it easy to resolve duplicate records while you are looking at a record.

Proactive Duplicate Prevention

Once your data is clean, it is critical to stop duplicate records from getting into your system again. There are various tools to help you achieve this. Salesforce has native tools to warn users or prevent users from creating duplicates when they save a record. There are third-party tools, like Ringlead, that expand that functionality by warning users while they are entering Lead records before they even hit save. If data comes into your system from web forms, you should also consider using a tool that screens data from web submission sources – you want to cover all of the ways that data are entering your Salesforce system.

Enforcing Data Quality

A third-party data cleaning tool can help you normalize your data and enforce data quality standards, as well. For example, you can find all the addresses that have a country value of US, USA, or U.S.A., and choose one standard spelling to apply to all records. Or you can generate a list of all Lead records with no phone or email address and mass-delete those records. Operations like these can help keep your data clean and consistent.

Data Enrichment Tools

Finally, there are tools that can take your data to the next level by enriching your Contacts, Leads, and Accounts with additional data points. You can use a third-party tool to add wealth information or giving propensity information to your donor list, making it easier to target the right prospects for your giving campaign. Some tools even allow you to parse information directly from websites like LinkedIn, so you can quickly add employer information to your Contact records in Salesforce.

At Cloud for Good, we think of data as the lifeblood of your CRM system. No matter how beautiful your system is (and we do think it’s beautiful!), your data is what makes that system live and work for you. The health of your data is critical to getting the most out of your CRM. Invest in your data, and it will pay you rewards.

 

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