3 Ways to Keep Data Clean in eTapestry Database Software

Category: Database Health

The value of your eTapestry database depends on the health, quality, and cleanliness of your data. Unfortunately, maintaining data quality can feel like a daunting task especially when you’re faced with updating historical data after years of neglect. If you’re feeling stuck with bad data, simplify the cleanup process by breaking data quality projects into manageable chunks. Get started with your account data first.

Why does clean data matter?

Intuitively it makes sense to keep your eTapestry database clean and healthy. But beyond intuition, clean data actually affects your organization’s bottom line.

Across the board, clean data saves time, reduces fundraising costs, and has the potential to increase the performance of fundraising activities. The benefit of clean data generally far outweighs the cost to clean up the data.

Account data in particular can impact your organization’s bottom line because account data is used for communication lists. Clean account data will affect mailing costs, response rates, and the amount of time you spend cleaning communication lists before sending an appeal. Even your eTapestry software license is governed by the number of accounts in your database. Every account in your eTapestry database determines your return on investment in the software.

Simple ways to maintain clean account data

There are three simple ways to keep account data clean in eTapestry software. These three processes don’t require database expertise. Anyone can complete them. Add each process to your organization’s standard operating procedures.

It is frustrating to run a communication list and find that salutations are either blank or incorrect. Clean up name and salutation fields and then standardize data entry in these fields to save time and streamline the production of communication lists.

  • 1. Code the account type field correctly

    The account type field isn’t a standard field in eTapestry. Check to see if your database has it.

    With the account type field, you can identify the entity type of a constituent account. Common account type values include individual, business, foundation, and organization. You can customize this field with other values. Some users add values like school, government, and hospital, among others.

    Each value in the account type field should be mutually exclusive, meaning no account should be able to fit within different account type categories. Something is wrong with your account type field values if an account can be two account type values without a clear fit for one over the other.

    There are two primary benefits to having an account type field in your database:

    • The account type field is the only way to differentiate between different types of accounts. All accounts are constituents in eTapestry, so the account type field is the primary way to segment different types of constituent accounts.
    • The account type field is the only way to report on total giving by entity type, which is a common way to measure fundraising and development performance for most organizations.

    There are two components of data quality related to account type:

    1. Every account should have an account type or you will not be able to take full advantage of the segmenting and reporting benefits the field offers. Make sure that your account type field is required and formatted properly as a single-select field with mutually exclusive values.
    2. Every account should be flagged with the appropriate account type. Review data entry to confirm consistent and proper application of the account type field.

  • 2. Remove duplicate accounts

    Duplicate accounts are a hassle. They impede data entry because new data entry may be applied to one account or the other (creating situations of split records). They also affect communication lists by requiring a de-duplication cleanup process prior to sending.

    Removing duplicate accounts is a straightforward process. Your eTapestry database comes with a built-in duplicate removal tool called the “Duplicate Report.” Access the duplicate report in eTapestry standard reports. Run the report and walk through the report results to remove duplicates.

    Running the Duplicate Report is especially important to maintaining data quality if you:

    • Use DIY forms
    • Import data from external data sources
    • Integrate with the eTapestry API
    • Don’t have a data entry policy for searching for an account first before creating a new account

    Creating duplicate accounts is a possibility in all of the situations listed above. If any of those scenarios apply to you, run the duplicate report once per month.

  • 3. Format names and salutations

    Names and salutations are commonly merged directly from your mailing list into your donor letters and emails, so it is imperative that account names and salutations are consistently formatted in eTapestry.

    Consistency is the key to clean data and communications. Implement consistent name and salutation formatting rules that all data entry users must follow.

    Maintain consistent name and salutation formatting by:

    1. Setting data entry rules for assigning Individual, Family, and Business name formats.
    2. Drafting data entry user guides that instruct users to check salutations before saving an account.
    3. Conducting monthly data quality reviews that double check data entry for newly created accounts.

    It is frustrating to run a communication list and find that salutations are either blank or incorrect. Clean up name and salutation fields and then standardize data entry in these fields to save time and streamline the production of communication lists.

Other areas that contribute to clean account data

The three processes described in this post aren’t the only things you can do to keep account data clean in your database. There are other processes you can implement to maintain even greater data health.

  • Addresses and Status – Update all addresses with the NCOA AddressFinder tool once per quarter and maintain accurate status codes for all constituents that shouldn’t receive mail.
  • Emails and Status – Maintain up-to-date email addresses and opt-out status information.
  • Relationships – Update relationships among constituents in your database. This includes employer and employee, family member, and non-family member relationships.
  • Demographics, codes, and preferences – Your database may have sets of custom demographics, codes, and preferences on the account defined fields page. Keep these fields up to date for each account.
  • History and journal entries – Maintain an accurate and clean history of journal entries for each account including gifts, pledges, contacts, and notes.

Data quality is a constant battle

Keeping your eTapestry database clean, healthy, and up to date requires consistent procedures and diligence. There is rarely a one-time fix to your data quality issues. Your database will continue to grow and you will continue to add data. This new data needs to be maintained on a regular basis.

In addition to regular cleanup projects, we recommend implementing data quality reviews at least once per month for all newly created records.

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