8 Steps to a Clean and Healthy eTapestry Database

Category: Database Health

Blackbaud® eTapestry® is a critical fundraising and development tool.  It requires careful maintenance and management to keep it clean and healthy.  An eTapestry database functioning in top-form can help your organization generate revenue, save time, reduce effort on daily tasks, and transform data into actionable information so you can make smarter decisions.

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If your system has been poorly managed or is challenged by poor data quality, the best first step is to complete an eTapestry database cleanup.  The actions taken during an eTapestry cleanup will vary from organization to organization, but the steps in this post are relevant even if your Blackbaud eTapestry software needs a cleanup.  Each step below is an eTapestry best practice and is recommended for all eTapestry users whether your database is clean, healthy, messy, or needs some work.  Follow these eight steps to maximize the value of your eTapestry software system.

  • 1. Build constituent profiles

    A constituent can be a donor, volunteer, board member, strategic partner, client, member (i.e. in a membership or sponsorship program), staff member, or general contact among a variety of other roles and affiliations.  Classify and organize these constituents in eTapestry with constituent profiles.

    Build constituent profiles on the personas page of an account by collecting at least one piece of useful contact information for each account (email, phone, or address).  Maintain accurate addresses and keep contact information up to date.  It is also a best practice to enter salutations for each account.

    Power User Tip: Use the eTapestry AddressFinder NCOA update tool to keep mailing addresses up to date and standardized.  Flag accounts that don’t have valid addresses as do not mail or bad address so they can be removed from future mailing lists.  Run AddressFinder once per quarter (if you have the eTapestry pro package).

    Enhance the value of your eTapestry database with custom segmentation on the constituent defined fields page of an account.  Create custom constituent user-defined fields and profile each constituent’s likes, dislikes, preferences, expectations, motivations, passions, demographics, affiliations, attributes, and more.

    Power User Tip: Accounts that are no longer actively engaged with your organization should be removed from mailing lists (email and direct mail).  Add an “Inactive” field value to your database’s “Mailing Status” field.  Flag inactive accounts and remove them from mailing list queries moving forward.

    Keeping constituent accounts up to date will generate active and viable communications lists for direct mail, email, and telephone marketing efforts.

  • 2. Track constituent histories

    It is an eTapestry best practice to log every interaction you have with a constituent. This includes interactions, notes, contacts, conversations, communications, gifts, pledges, volunteer activities, soft credits, and all other engagements with a constituent. These interactions produce a historical profile of your engagement with a constituent in the constituent’s journal.

    Complete constituent histories with help you organization in three ways.

    1. Review the journal prior to a future interaction, meeting, call, or event.
    2. Query specific journal entries and produce segmented lists based on constituent interactions.
    3. Use the journal as a knowledge backup for the organization.

    Power User Tip: Log important phone conversations and emails in your eTapestry database with the journal contact record.  Add contextual notes to an account with the journal note record.  Before logging journal notes in your database, add a user-defined field called “Note Type” as a single select field.  Add field values to the “Note Type” field to qualify different types of notes.  You can query on note types to display journal notes in a report.

    The key to a healthy eTapestry database is consistency.  Maintain consistent data entry procedures for salutations, addresses, contact information, defined fields, and all other profile details.  In addition, maintain consistent data entry for journal entries including gifts, pledges, contacts, and notes.  Consistent data entry will improve the quality of reports.

  • 3. Manage data quality

    “Good data in equals good data out.” That statement sums up one of the most important concepts of nonprofit database software management. Data quality is a critical component to good reporting and a healthy eTapestry database.

    Data quality procedures add an extra level of monitoring to the data entry of your users.  Data quality procedures double-check the accuracy of user data entry.  Implement eTapestry data quality controls on a recurring schedule.  Monthly data quality reviews are most common.

    Recommended eTapestry Data Quality Reviews

    1. Constituents created last month – Manually review all constituents created last month for consistent entry of salutations, addresses, contact information, and user-defined fields.  Also review the name and sort name fields for non-individual accounts.  Confirm that each constituent has one piece of contact information.
    2. Transactions created last month – Manually review all transactions created last month for consistent entry of funds, campaigns, and approaches.  Also review in kind gifts to make sure they are coded and classified properly.
    3. Duplicate report – Run a duplicate report each month from the eTapestry Standard Reports list.  The duplicate report is especially important if you use eTapestry DIY forms.

    Power User Tip: Every account should have an Account Type.  In your data quality reviews, confirm that an account type is selected and that the type was selected properly.

    While data quality controls take time, you will be saving your organization considerable time long-term with cleaner data, accurate reports, and consistent information.

  • 4. Schedule eTapestry training

    The people that use your eTapestry database are the most important component of the system. They are most important because eTapestry requires human interface for data entry and reporting.

    Training is frequently under-represented in both short-term and long-term eTapestry planning. Build a long-term sustainability plan that defines a set schedule for eTapestry training.

    Support your users by investing in the capacity they need to be successful with eTapestry.  If your goal is to maintain a healthy eTapestry system, then help your users build proficiency in eTapestry.

    Power User Tip: All eTapestry users should remain up to date.  Plan for annual training (in whatever form is best).  Even I spend time during the year re-watching training videos, reading eTapestry help documentation, and setting up practical examples to test my own knowledge.  Becoming a proficient eTapestry user takes an investment of time.

    Learning eTapestry takes a force of will.  Building capacity in eTapestry requires a combination of instructional learning and practical use.  Free and paid training resources are available and the resources you choose to use will depend on your learning style.

  • 5. Draft user guides

    Give users the documentation they need to operate and sustain eTapestry.  Navigate staff turnover with ease by keeping internal documentation of important eTapestry processes and procedures.

    User guides document instructions for custom processes in eTapestry. User guides can cover data entry, reporting, standard operating procedures, policies, and field definitions.  User guides are another method your organization can use to backup knowledge.

    User Guide Examples

    • How to generate standard acknowledgement letters
    • How to complete specific gift or constituent data entry
    • How to run monthly management or data quality reports
    • How to complete a recurring import from an external software system
    • How to manage processes using custom user-defined fields like grant management, moves management, planned giving event management, or volunteers
  • 6. Make reporting a habit

    If you have clean, clear, and consistent data in your database, then your data becomes a valuable tool. Your eTapestry database is a wealth of information and knowledge.

    Consistency is one of the most important components of good reporting.  Consistent reports will help you make performance changes, improvements, and help you align outcomes with your expected results or goals.  Running consistent reports and using reported data to make decisions and take action are signs of a healthy eTapestry database.

    Make reporting a habit with these steps.

    1. Outline a list of management reports to run every month and quarter
    2. Build the queries and reports required to run those management reports
    3. Add a task to run the reports on a set schedule, or set them up to be emailed to you using the eTapestry report scheduler
    4. Set aside time each month and quarter to review reports and list one thing you can take action on from each report

    The ability to run custom queries and reports from eTapestry is a must-have skill for every organization.  Reporting is a key to managing data quality, managing fundraising performance, and generating communications lists.  Organizations that have the capacity to generate on-demand custom queries and reports get the most value from eTapestry.  It is critical that your organization have either internal (staff member) or external (eTapestry consultant) support for queries and reports.

  • 7. Manage fundraising performance

    Performance measurement (or management) is a strategic process of setting goals and defining strategies, measuring performance toward those goals, and improving upon the outcomes. Performance measurement can “show” the effectiveness of your fundraising strategies so you can take steps to improve performance over time.

    eTapestry is setup to manage fundraising performance and measure real-time performance toward your fundraising goals.  The fund, campaign, and approach fields are the mechanism you can use to manage fundraising performance.

    Funds, campaigns, and approaches are standard eTapestry fields that link directly to standard dashboards and standard reports.  You can measure whether your fundraising strategies are effective with these three fields.

    Power User Tip: Use the eTapestry fund, campaign, and approach structure to develop your annual fundraising plan.  Write out your funds and set goals for each.  Then define your campaigns and the approaches that are a part of each campaign.  Set goals and quantities (the number of transactions) for each campaign and approach.  The structure of your fundraising plan can now be translated directly into your eTapestry database.  You can now forecast future performance, track real-time performance, and report on past performance.

  • 8. Conduct annual assessments

    Complete a review of your eTapestry database on an annual basis. An annual review will help your organization be strategic and intentional with eTapestry.  Intentionality is a key component of a clean and healthy eTapestry database.

    Since data is so important to your organization, it is important that eTapestry helps you collect, manage, and act on data. In order to determine whether eTapestry is helping or hurting your organization’s ability to collect manage, and act on data, it is important to assess and review eTapestry on a consistent basis.

    An assessment asks hard questions, but those hard questions will demand value from eTapestry.  The more you improve your database, the more valuable it will be for your organization.

    Download our eTapestry Self-Assessment Guide and Worksheet template to review your eTapestry database.

Get the Most from Your eTapestry Database  

The investment you make in eTapestry is significant.  Managing and maintaining eTapestry requires intentional planning, thought, and strategy.  While these eight steps do not include recommendations for eTapestry data cleanup, they can help you manage, maintain, and sustain your eTapestry database in an on-going format.

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