Its back to school season here which means endless kid trips to the dentist, etc. Sticker shock for parents anywhere, and parental time for lectures on hygiene. Which in our business makes us think of nonprofit organization databases. Hygiene, the number one missing element that could save you expense and, yes, pain.
Poor list hygiene happens by accident. The box office may collect names in a variety of ways: from web site transactions, walk-ups, phone orders, mail orders. Over time, the hygiene of your database can deteriorate, which could mean lost money in wasted direct mail, out of date email addresses, or more systemic problems that could mean the wrong donor gets the wrong letter, or worse! Here are some of the typical problems, and tips for fixing them:
1) Data may include incorrect addresses or incomplete addresses. We advise doing a complete address correction at least once a year, or more, depending on your organization’s dynamics. NCOA is an absolute must!
2) Data may be kept by show, rather than anchored by the purchaser unique I.D. That could result in thousands of duplicates! Organizations using external box offic systems such as Ticketmaster often confront this problem. Solution: we believe in the value of building a master database, and then regularly updating it from your box office files.
3) Data may need scrubbing for name/address duplications. Louise Stevens may have bought the tickets for the last show; John Stevens may be buying the tickets for this show; and last year Mrs. John Stevens may have bought the tickets. Oh, and women change their names more often than men. (Example: I just went back to adding Kenngott to my name to reconnect with college classmates on Lynked In and Plaxo and other social networking sites.) Good scrubbing removes these dupes.
4) The box office data may not be coordinated with the development office data. Again, a single I.D. that works across departments can eliminate confusion and make sure that every bit of data on each household is consolidated.
5) Show by show data may not be included as separate fields when the purchase is for a package or subscription. The future marketing message can be targeted to households that purchase packages of popular operas like La Boheme and La Traviata as compared to householdds that like The Bonesetters’ Daughter and Nixon in China.
Accurate data saves duplicates in mailing, ensures your ability to prospect and target wisely, and can cut printing budget waste. Accurate data also lets your customers know that you have studied them! So get to work in the hygiene department. It will save you huge headaches and a lot of money that can be put to far better use!