8 Bloomerang Import Tips, Tricks, and Best Practices
The Bloomerang import tool can import data into your database in batches, reducing the amount of time required to create new data or modify existing data in your database. While the import tool is powerful and helpful, it should be approached with discipline. Use these tips, tricks, best practices and recommendations to “get the most” from the import tool and streamline data management in your Bloomerang database.
1. Know what you are importing
The import utility can only import one type of record at a time. That means each data file can only contain information related to one data object. The four types of imports are: constituents, donations, interactions, and notes. Each of these import types is then broken down into a constituent type: individual or organization. These types of imports require that each import file contain only the single type of record you intend to import. The import file must contain homogenous information.
Note: You can import data for individuals and organization in the same data file if every record in your import file can be matched to your database and no new accounts will be created by your import file. This is helpful if you need to mass update fields or field values for organizations and individual accounts that already exist in your database or import transactions, interactions, or notes to individual and organization accounts that already exist in your database (without creating new accounts). To ensure the import matches to existing accounts, it’s best practice to include the Bloomerang account number (when possible). While you can import data for existing records in your database, we recommend keeping your import files specific to either individuals or organizations. Keeping your import files focused on a single and defined data import can make your import processes more straight-forward, easier to understand, and potentially less error-prone.
2. Name your records appropriately
It is recommended that you identify each account with the appropriate name fields when importing new constituent accounts. For individual constituent accounts, it is recommended that your import file contain columns for title, first name, last name, middle name, and suffix separately.
For organization constituent accounts, your import file should contain one column for the name of the organization and separate columns for the first name and last name of the primary contact for the organization. While it isn’t required, it is recommended that you split an individual constituent account’s name components into separate columns because Bloomerang stores name fields separately in the database. If your data file has individual constituent names in the same column in either a “first name last name” format or a “last name, first name” format, you can use the Excel “text to columns” feature to appropriately arrange your data into separate columns.
If you are importing new individuals or organizations and if you have special conventions for naming, it is also important to add the informal, formal, envelope, and recognition names to your import files as columns. If these values aren’t identified in your import file, Bloomerang attempts to complete these fields for you when the new record is created. Bloomerang uses an algorithm to add these fields. The algorithm may not match your organization’s specific or unique naming conventions. As a result, if you have specific requirements for these name fields, it is best to manually identify these fields in your import file prior to import.
Note: While it is recommended that you use two columns for the first name and last name of constituents, Bloomerang can accept “Name” in a single column in your import file (i.e. “first name last name”). However, this can cause problems if you aren’t careful. When a single name column is used, the Bloomerang import tool will split the name. The system does this automatically. The system will also complete the informal, formal, envelope, and recognition names. However, these splits and field creations are done based on a formula that may not match your organization’s naming conventions. As a result, while the system can import a single “Name” column, it is recommended that you split the name field into first name and last name as a guarantee that your name fields are appropriately identified.
3. Choose your duplicate check fields
Before running your import, it is recommended that you plan duplicate check fields for your data. Bloomerang identifies duplicate checks in either one of three ways. It will identify duplicates if you use the Bloomerang Account ID, or the name (for organizations) or first name and last name (for individuals) plus the address, phone, or email of the constituent account. The Bloomerang Account ID is a straight-forward duplicate check field. If you use this field, the import utility will identify the duplicate in the database. However, if you are using name fields, it is important to have at least an address, phone, or email for the account in order to match a duplicate. If you don’t add a duplicate check field beyond the name field, Bloomerang will import your data by creating a new account for that name.
Three Options for Duplicate Checks
Bloomerang Account ID
Individual Constituent Accounts
Address, Phone, or Email
Organization Constituent Accounts
Address, Phone, or Email
4. Review your import file
Before you start importing or attempting to import any data, it is recommended that you review your import file. Check for the following inconsistencies and correct them before you attempt to import your file. While double checking for these items doesn’t guarantee that your file will run without error, it will certainly improve your chances of a successful import.
In addition to adding and mapping your duplicate check fields, check for the following items.
- Your import file must be in a .CSV file format (not Excel XLS or XLSX).
- The import file must have column headers that are associated with Bloomerang fields in row one (clearly label them for easy mapping).
- The import file must be less than or equal to 2,000 rows of data (this number includes the column header in row one, so only 1,999 rows of actual data).
- The import file cannot contain any blank rows.
- Addresses must be split into separate rows based on their component parts (i.e address, city, state, and postal code) and it is recommended that account names be split into their component parts (i.e. first name, last name).
- Minimize or eliminate special characters in your cells as much as possible. This includes *, $, %, and commas. Sometimes the import tool can hang up on special characters.
- It is recommended that your import file contain homogenous data (i.e. all data is the same type and the same account type).
- Remove columns with data that you don’t need to import. This will keep your data file clean and improve import processing efficiency.
5. Trust the right source
If your file contains accounts that already exist in your database, it is important to trust the right source for your import. Trusting a source tells Bloomerang what to do with your import data as it relates to the existing account in your database. Choosing the right source is important because if you don’t, the import process may skip data in your import file that should be imported or it may use the import file to overwrite data in the database that should remain. This choice is given when you are importing duplicate records and need to “merge” information from your import file with the data for the duplicate account already present in your Bloomerang database.
There are two options.
- “Trust What’s In My File” – The data in the import file will overwrite data in Bloomerang. Empty rows and cells in your import file will not erase data in the database. Use this option if you want to update the data in the database with the data from the import file.
- “Trust What’s In the Database” – The data in the import file will not overwrite any existing information in the database. Any blank fields in Bloomerang will be populated with data from the import file. Use this option if you don’t want your import file to overwrite existing information in the database.
6. Check the stats
This is the last step before you run your import. As a result, don’t jump too quickly to the “run” button and execute the import process. Double check the import stats and make sure that the number of new records to be created and the number of duplicates found aligns with your expectations for the import. If your expectations for the import don’t align with the statistics, don’t run the import. Evaluate why the import statistics and your expectations don’t align before you run the import. This double-check is highly recommended if you are importing data that should merge with existing records in the database.
If you know that your import file contains duplicates (i.e. a record in your import file matches a record in the database), and the import statistics show no duplicates, your import file isn’t formatted correctly. This is common when your import file doesn’t contain enough information to run a duplicate check. Each import file must contain duplicate check fields beyond the account name. If you import names only (without any duplicate check fields), the duplicate check won’t find duplicates. The import tool will create new records for each row in your import file when there are no other duplicate check fields. Double checking the statistics before running the import file will flag inconsistencies in your import versus your expectations so you don’t import new records when you want to append, modify, or add information to existing records in your database.
7. Run a test file
Of all the tips on this list, this tip may be the most useful. Imports cannot be undone. Once you run an import you cannot easily delete or recover your database’s state prior to the import. User import errors can only be corrected manually. If you run a batch of 100 records or even 1,999 records (the limit for imports) and make a mistake, you will be manually updating your database for many hours. That is why it is important to run a small test batch of 3-5 rows of data before you import your full import file.
Start with a small number of records as a test. Use a manageable number, so if you make any mistakes you can manually recover from those mistakes. Run your full import file once you are confident the import will do what you want it to do.
8. Spend time to get it right
Imports can save you and your organization a large amount of data entry time. It is much easier to enter 1,500 new constituent accounts in batch than it is to enter them manually one-by-one. However, don’t be hasty with your import processes.
Take time to properly format your files, review the data manually (i.e. glance over your import file), test your imports, and evaluate the import statistics. While you may spend a handful of hours following rigid methods and procedures for your import, you will still save large quantities of time versus manually entering the data.
Keep in mind that if you were to manually enter 1,500 accounts at two minutes per account it would take you over fifty hours to complete. That means you can spend up to fifty hours following rigid import protocols while still saving you and your organization time. Generally, the time to follow proper import procedures will always be less than manually entering information in the database (unless it is a significantly small amount of data to be entered). However, if you make mistakes during your import, you may spend more time cleaning up than you would manually entering the data. Picking up the pieces of an error-ridden import can be a long and arduous process. As a result, take your time, follow strict methods and procedures, and get the import right. Good data in equals good data out. Therefore the time required to import “good data” into your Bloomerang database is well worth it.
Imports can be a technical process, but these eight tips can help you get them right. Because imports cannot be reversed and they have the potential to muddy your database quickly and in batch, it is important to be systematic and intentional with your imports. Always double check, recheck, test, and retest your import files using these tips before you press the “run” button. That way you can import your data with confidence.
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