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Data Management: How Often Should You Clean House?

How would you categorize your association’s practices when it comes to keeping your membership data spotless?

A) A hoarder: One who never starts cleaning

B) A microbiologist: One who cleans frequently

C) An overzealous housekeeper: One who never stops arranging, sweeping, mopping, dusting, and disinfecting

When it comes to membership data, you need to be C. But that’s not the case for most associations: Twenty-five percent of an average association’s contact data records are incorrect in some way. If you or your current data manager is not an overzealous housekeeper, then follow these tips to help you begin the process.

Ensure data quality by starting with quality in mind

If you haven’t developed a knowledgebase outlining your standards, start there. This is critical when training Member Service staff as they will be inputting and updating member records. Everything has its place when it comes to data, and it should be ordered consistently. Without order, data analysis is impossible (as well as faulty). Without data analysis, developing your ideal member profile is impossible. Without an ideal member profile, you’re promoting in the dark to prospects, if you can identify them at all.

You will need to evaluate:

  • Which fields in your current database are mandatory and essential for data analysis?
  • Parse name into prefix, first, middle, last, and suffix
  • Enter data in upper/lowercase
  • Should punctuation be avoided?
  • What profile information should be tracked? (i.e. business type, size, income, gender, birthdate, join date)

Never import data without scrubbing first

VPDCS migrates membership data into our THINK database. Perhaps the most important part of the migration is standardizing data from the legacy system before importing into THINK.

If you are importing records into your database:

  • Apply your knowledgebase standards.
  • Standardize addresses to meet U.S. Postal Service (USPS) standards. VPDCS can help with our USPS software.
  • Identify moves. Almost 15 percent of Americans move every year. If your target member is 18-34 or retirement age, it’s higher. VPDCS can identify moves through the USPS National Change of Address (NCOA) process.

Your association will reap the benefits:

Increase mail deliverability                 Reduce duplicates (see below)

Increase delivery time                         Reduce member frustration

Increase promotion response              Reduce mailing costs

Avoid duplicates

The average database contains 8-10 percent duplicate records. Duplicates result in wasted resources and inefficiency, plus cloud your ability to get an accurate view of your members. THINK allows VPDCS to define a matchcode. That definition is applied to every new record added.

  • For the matchcode to work, data quality is critical.
  • Defining a matchcode is part science, part art. If a matchcode is too “tight,” non-dupes will be incorrectly identified. If a matchcode is too “loose,” dupes will slip through.
  • No matter how careful you are, you’ll find dupes in your database. To keep crucial information scattered between records, merge the information into one contact.

So … How often should you clean house?

Maintaining data quality is not a one-time event. Here are some additional resources for guidance from our partners:

At VPDCS we use a variety of programs, reports, and processes to ensure data integrity every day – and you should be taking advantage of this, too!

Want to hire data housekeepers? Let’s get started.

Article written by:

Sandy Councell

Database Manager

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