Cleaning House: Data Hygiene for Your CRM

Cleaning House: Data Hygiene for Your CRM

For many of us, when spending double the normal amount of time sequestered at home, we tend to take care of the list of projects that we may have tabled for a while. The garage has been cleaned, the junk has been removed from the junk drawer, and for the most organized of all of us, the spice cabinet has been re-alphabetized twice – coriander follows cinnamon and not vice versa.

Data hygiene is paramount to the success of your organization, and at ROI Solutions to our clients’ success, so we wanted to share some tips and advice to make sure that your CRM remains as sparkling as your countertops.

Data Quality Assessment

How clean is your data today?

The first step in thinking about data hygiene is evaluating the current quality of your data. Your CRM company should help your organization identify incorrect or incomplete data by providing you with a comprehensive review of your organization’s data. At ROI Solutions we summarize and prioritize our clients’ data issues, and then discuss the best mechanism, whether as a revision to a business process or as a workflow, through prescriptive client-specific programming to fix the root cause of the issue.  

It is also a perfect time to think about what other data you could use to enhance your knowledge of your constituents. Your CRM company should be able to recommend opportunities to further augment your data for the best use by your organization.  

Here are some common problems that we have witnessed over the years in data management and some recommendations to address and rectify them.

Incorrect Addresses

The USPS estimates that approximately 14% of the population moves every year. Some organizations with large direct mail driven programs estimate that they lose tens of thousands of dollars per mailing in undeliverable mail.

The USPS graciously returns the Undeliverable Address mail complete with a Return to Sender a yellow sticker, but few organizations go through the manual effort to update addresses based on those. Concierge-level caging and cashier vendors do offer services to manually key address changes, but this can be an expensive exercise. 

The Solution: Regular National Change of Address (NCOA) and Coding Accuracy Support System (CASS) certification services can ensure that your direct mail finds the right home. ROI Solutions offers its clients both 48-month NCOA services and CASS services. At ROI Solutions we always recommend that our clients run their NCOA process on their full file annually and at least out as far as they generally mail (e.g. 0-48 months, 0-60 months) on at least a quarterly basis.

At ROI Solutions we also can automate the selection criteria, output of data, and matching/overwrite logic to make the process more automated and turnkey. A regular NCOA/CASS process that works within your communications schedule will ensure that you maximize your direct mail deliverability.

“Clean with purpose, order and strategic timing! Don’t be afraid to utilize a combination of strategies to custom-fit your hygiene initiative. At WETA, one of our tactics was to utilize the ROI Solutions’ Possible Duplicates module in proximity of a NCOA update being deployed. Theoretically, one would assume duplicates with the same address will appear in higher volume after your CRM has been updated via NCOA. Post NCOA is a great time to dive into your possible duplicates as this practice will make your routine QC maintenance that much easier since your strongest effort will be concentrated to a time period when you know more possible dupes with surface.”

Tony Martin, Senior Manager, Development Operations, WETA

Partial, Incomplete, or Incorrect Data

Another challenge stems from incomplete or partial data on constituent records. This can take the form of partial names, addresses, email addresses, and other data points that were either entered erroneously by your constituent or during manually keying. This is often caused by data that you are receiving via integration with third-parties or web forms that are incorrectly or only partially completed.

The Solution: The first step again is to identify the constituent records for which you might have only partial data. Revolution CRM provides a suite of tools and scripts to identify many common problems including: Capitalization Problems, Missing Contact Names, Missing Street/City/State/Zip code, Duplicated Relationships, and many others. If your organization has a unique issue that you are experiencing, contact your Account Management Team and we can help unpack the problem and recommend client-specific programming to help you resolve it.

The second step is determining if they are originating from a common source (like a web form) and determining how valuable the interaction of that constituent is to your organization. Here we recommend strategic consultation with your CRM company to determine what is best for your organization to review your data entry protocols and integration points and proactively mitigate any potential problem areas. Careful consideration must be paid to the following questions.

  • Is it valuable to have a constituent record with, for example, only an email address in your CRM?
  • What minimally viable amount of data is required to consider that a “complete” or “complete enough” constituent record for your organization? For example, should you require additional data to be entered into an online form before capturing that data?
  • If a constituent record is incomplete, how are you going to have an informed communication strategy and via what channel(s)?
  • On the opposite side of the fence, having too much data can render it into a cacophony of unusable data, so what data are you collecting that is going to be actionable for your organization in terms of analytics and marketing strategy? 

At ROI Solutions we work with our clients to help determine what the value is of the data captured via any channel. Then we help our clients determine if they should further round out their constituent information by soliciting self-reported information through direct follow-up, or by augmenting that data with the assistance of a demographic data compiler.

At ROI Solutions we have developed turnkey relationships with several vendors that provide demographic enhancements, wealth and liquidity screening, congressional districting data, as well as email and phone appends and verification services. These relationships allow us to provide our clients with discounted pricing based on our collective client volume. Based on the use case, your CRM company should help you identify a partner that can help fill in the blanks to round out your constituent view through email appends and verification, phone appends and verification, demographic enhancements, wealth and liquidity profiles, and other valuable information.


The single biggest source of frustration (not to mention cost and revenue implications as well) for nonprofit organizations is realizing that they have a high rate of constituent duplication. We have seen some organizations during the conversion process from other applications into our Revolution CRM have as high as a 10+% rate of duplication. The reasons for duplication vary from organization to organization: from loose data entry controls, to online form entry, to other originating sources of inbound data, and the list goes on.

For most organizations, this issue can be further exacerbated by multiple applications in their ecosystem that are loosely (or not at all) integrated. In other words, your organization might have more duplicates than you even realize. Data duplication ends up costing your organization time, money, and perhaps most importantly, knowledge about your constituent’s 360-degree involvement and interaction with the organization.

The Solution: Your CRM should provide duplicate detection tools within the application to run ad-hoc or scheduled dupe suspect reports. In ROI Solutions’ Revolution CRM, we provide easy-to-use suspected duplicate listings. Our clients review these listings on a monthly basis at a minimum and dedicate resources to evaluate potential duplications and administer those changes. The outputs are created with industry standard algorithms using both full and partial name, address, and email information to determine which records are potentially duplicated. These listings output suspected dupes in a convenient listingthat can be manually merged or marked as non-dupes within the application. While these tools can identify and help manually address duplication, enterprise-size organizations usually do not have the human resource capacity to dedicate to manually rectifying duplicates. 

Large organizations need to implement automated scripts within their CRM to automatically address de-duplication. At ROI Solutions we provide our clients with a standard time-tested baseline matching algorithm. The matching logic that govern the tolerances for manual exception handling can then be tightened or loosened based on their client need and capacity (or desire) for manual reconciliation.

ROI Solutions also works with our clients when integrating any other third-party tools within their ecosystem. Here too, we provide baseline matching logic which can be dialed up or down to accommodate and automate the capture of inbound data flows to minimize duplication. A pending queue is created for manual exception handling and clients routinely review this list to properly handle any data requests that fall outside of their matching tolerance to be handled automatically. ROI Solutions’ dedicated Account Management teams routinely monitor our clients’ pending queues to ensure that request volumes are manageable and are being regularly administered.

“Our constituent services team works diligently to merge identified duplicates that aren’t handled by our automated merge process. On a weekly basis that team is tasked with merging a minimum number of duplicate accounts. Since we implemented this process a couple of years ago complaints from donors about receiving duplicate direct mail packages has decreased considerably. In addition to an improved constituent experience, we are also saving money on print and postage. It has made a big difference!”

Michelle Grames, Director of CRM Systems, American Lung Association

For any automated process for ROI Solutions’ clients, the logic behind that programming conveniently lives in the Business Rules folder in the application. So, if you need to understand the matching logic of your de-duplication script, or even want to tweak it to meet your needs, this historical and iterative document tells you exactly what is happening with your data. 

The Bottom Line

The very foundation of your organization’s fundraising and communications strategy is your CRM and the data maintained therein. You need to ensure that you are not only capturing, but evaluating and curating your constituent data on a routine and regular basis – and at ROI Solutions we are here to help you do just that. 

Every organization should have a data hygiene plan of action. That plan will be unique to your organization based on the outbound and inbound communication channels that you use, what pertinent information that you need to capture and communicate effectively with your constituents, how much staff time you can allocate to ongoing clean-up efforts, and how to engage your CRM company’s resources to help identify problem areas and automate processes to identify and rectify them. 

Remember the work you do today on data hygiene can have a positive impact on your organization’s bottom line in terms of cost savings both now and in the near future. You need to be confident that the information you have about your constituents is up-to-date and that you understand the true 360-degree view of their interactions with your organization. The plan that you and your CRM company enable together and adhere to will make sure that your CRM stays healthy and clean and empowers you to maximize your organization’s marketing efforts.

Now, back to cleaning the shelves, and organizing the closet, and…