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Golden rules of data management

Data management and usage can be a minefield – even to the uninitiated. Every day in the UK, 1,600 people die, 1,800 people move house, 650 people register with the Mailing Preference Service and 1,300 with the Telephone Preference Service – both of which effectively bar you from approaching them via post or phone unless solicited. The first golden rule is therefore...

Avoid inaccurate data

The cardinal sin of data management is to send a communication to someone who is no longer at the address/company. It’s a waste of time – and money. At least once a year, check your data to make sure it’s up-to-date.  The easiest way is to take your contact list to what’s known as a ‘bureau’ – i.e. a data management and cleaning company; the most respected of which in the third sector is the Royal Mail-affiliated CCR Data Cleaning & Data Cleansing Experts.

Keep your data in one place

Getting your database in order is a bit like spring cleaning. You know what needs to be done. The problem is finding the motivation to actually do it. Not doing it usually results in the same letter being sent to the same person several times (annoying for them) or not at all (annoying for you). It’s easy to see why this happens. Often it’s a historical thing, with different data being collected by different people in different ways. Also, if a supporter volunteers and donates, you might find yourself with two separate records being held on them.

The solution is of course to merge databases – a task that you should really not undertake without taking professional advice. For example, don’t go for a complex Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system with lots of bells and whistles if you don’t have the resources to input and assess that data.

Garbage in, garbage out

A database or CRM system is not a cure for all ills. The best thing you can do is put processes in place that enable your organisation to capture a decent quantity and quality data at the point of contact with your stakeholders. Why not make it an important part of your marketing strategy?
For example, charities often deliver branded plastic bags to neighbourhoods asking people to fill them with old clothes and leave them for collection on a certain day. Might they consider including a tag on the bags (and perhaps even a pen) asking those that donate to provide a few contact details?

Back up!

It sounds like an obvious one, but much like sending letters to the deceased, it happens all too often in the third sector. And much like collecting customer data, this isn’t just a marketing issue – it’s wider than that, and a very common issue among the voluntary sector. If you’re a small charity reading this, do you back up? If you’re a support organisation, could helping charities to do their back ups be a sure way for you to win them over?

Essentially, backing-up means copying data. Traditionally you would chose to do this manually (whenever you felt like it) or automatically each week (with only ‘new’ data being backed up). The data itself beng stored on CDs or tapes and keep them in a different physical location.

These days the popular solution is the virtual backup - which takes place over the internet. You pay a monthly fee to a specialist hosting company and they automatically backup your hard drive to their servers at agreed intervals for a modest monthly fee. Many respected virus protection firms like Symantec offer this service.

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