Donor data enrichment, what is it?

Donor data enrichment, what is it?

A lot of data jargon gets thrown around these days. Data hygiene. Data appending. Data brokers. Donor data enrichment. And the one that gets everyone’s attention – big data. These terms came up in a recent webinar that we co-sponsored about how to avoid letting bad data ruin your annual fundraising appeal. So what is donor data enrichment?

Donor data enrichment

Data enrichment – or donor data enrichment – is the practice of enhancing or refining the value of information assets, such as databases. It is important to any data quality management strategy, in order to properly manage the full data lifecycle needs of an organization. Examples of data enrichment include:

  1. Appending data (donor) records with additional data fields
  2. Associating (donor) data records previously not associated
  3. Cleaning (donor) data to remove corrupt, incomplete, or outdated records
  4. Adding new data capture fields on your website, forms and surveys

A common practice for any organization to enrich its sales or donor database is to append it – to use a data brokerage service that takes your data, analyzes it, and adds more fields of data to it. This makes it more useful, more valuable. For example, a nonprofit may have 10,000 contact names with addresses and donation histories. A service could be used to add information such as birth date, place of employment, alma mater, giving histories to other charities, even purchasing habits and real estate home values. Another example, a nonprofit may have contacts with mailing addresses but no emails or phone numbers. A data brokerage service could be used to gain that additional contact information.

These common practices, however, may not be the best – or most affordable – course of action for a small or mid-sized nonprofit. That’s okay – there are plenty of options.

Does your organization need donor data enrichment?

Simple answer. Yes.

Donor data enrichment is a necessary part of any successful data management plan. Remember this simple rule:

 If your data isn’t getting better, then it’s getting worse. – TSL data experts

How can we say that?

Because we understand data, and we especially understand how data can be created, managed, neglected, and ignored. Almost all data degrades over time. Think about how data is gathered at your organization, updated, and used. How many (un-trained) hands touch it? How easy is it to create duplicate records? When was the last time your donor database had a serious spring cleaning? Still not convinced? Here’s an even better discussion of the problem of data degradation from an expert at Informatica.

The challenge with donor data enrichment, however, is how to go about it? How do you avoid buying outdated data files from data brokers? What is the right amount of data to acquire? What new information do you need … and how will you use it? When do you enrich, and how often?

In other words, you need a data strategy, some planning, and a year-round commitment to data quality management.

Get started by keeping it simple

Donor data enrichment does not have to involve expensive data broker services and big data companies. The goal is to plan for the steady improvement of – and regular maintenance of – your donor data.

TSL Data Assessment

  1. Get a data quality assessment of your donor data. Here’s an example.
  2. Determine what fields of data you are not collecting (consistently or at all), but that you would use if you had them.
  3. Ask for the data … from your current donors, volunteers and other consumers of your organization, its programs and content. This is an obvious step that is too often overlooked in favor of the data broker. There are many options for capturing new data – web forms, surveys, e-newsletter Q&As, polls, and good old-fashioned direct asks!
  4. Make the commitment to better data quality management by separating the process (and budget!) for data management from the various fundraising activities that require higher quality data.

Donor data enrichment is not a one-time event. But the more you practice data quality, the easier it gets.

We can help. Contact us if you have questions or need any assistance.

About Gary Carr

Gary is the founder and president of Third Sector Labs. With more than 20 years of experience delivering software and data solutions to a wide variety of clients, Gary turned his attention to the overwhelming problem of data. Third Sector Labs is committed to making sense of data for the nonprofit industry.

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