Now that my team and I seem to have a little breathing room, how can we use it to focus on database cleanup?” 

Well, since you asked…

Here’s Part 2 of our 5-part blog series on how you can use your time away from the hustle and the bustle of your office to rejuvenate your organization’s fundraising engine: your database. Today we’re going to look at how best to perform database cleanup on constituent records.

Ahhh…a clean database. It’s the Utopian dream! Most people feel that a clean database is years away. There are, however, many small database cleanup activities that can add up to a much healthier, more useful set of data. While we could write a novel about this very topic, we’ve boiled it down to our top eight efforts.

Clean up those duplicates.

Duplicate records are the worst; they’re like little gremlins that creep into reports and lists and seem to multiply at will. Let’s power through and clean them up! Most databases have built-in functionality to help you identify dupes and then merge them with a side-by-side comparison. If you have hundreds of dupes and it seems overwhelming, break up the effort over a week or two and do 50-100 each day.

Review relationship managers.

Now is the perfect time to review solicitors and their relationships. Pull a list of all gift officers and their coded prospects, and ask the team to review their individual prospects to make sure relationships are still being pursued. This process will keep their portfolios nice and tidy. It will also provide you with the opportunity to sunset any solicitors no longer with the organization.


According to the the Census, 12% of Americans move each year. Running your database against the National Change of Address system will ensure that your database’s mailing addresses are updated and formatted correctly. Check with your database provider for any costs associated with this service.

Assess constituent codes/donor types.

Your constituent codes or donor types will need monitoring and triaging if they aren’t evergreen. For example, foundations will always be foundations. But, if you use your codes or types to track prospects, volunteers, board members, or staff, they’ll need to be reviewed on a regular basis. Pull a list of all constituents and output their names and constituent codes/donor types. Review and update each record accordingly. And be sure to pay attention to missing codes!

Review addressees and salutations.

It’s an awful feeling when a donor calls and says his letter was addressed Mrs. and Mrs. John Taylor or Mr. and Mrs. Susan Taylor. This is another area where gremlins can creep in and wreak havoc. Many addressees and salutations are built on pre-defined fields, so when those fields aren’t populated correctly, addressees and salutations can get wonky. Review all pre-defined fields like titles, suffixes, first and last names, and middle initials (and even nicknames) to make sure that addressees and salutations can populate correctly. Then, query for records that are missing addressees and salutations and fill them in.

Evaluate attributes and other user-defined fields.

These fields are your database’s junk drawer. They tend to collect pieces of data that don’t fit anywhere else, and they build up over many years and different database administrators. First, go through your code tables and inactivate all codes you no longer use. Second, review the codes that are left and look for those that can be consolidated. Oftentimes, we see duplicative data in this area.

Sunset open actions or contact records.

Our dear colleagues who conduct donor-facing activities will sometimes forget to mark them as completed. Pull a list of all open contacts/actions. First, you can inactivate all open actions for solicitors that are no longer with the organization. Second, ask your gift officers to review the list and let you know which ones should be marked as completed.

Examine relationships.

Your donor database is designed to be relational. It’s important to understand which donors are related to or know other donors, where donors work, or which boards they serve on. We find that the most challenging area of relationships is in classifying the relationship and reciprocal between two constituents. Not only do they tend to be backwards, we frequently find that these fields are blank. Gasp! What good is recording the relationship if we don’t know what type of relationship it is? Pull a query of all relationship types and review them carefully for 1) backwards data (the mother is coded as the daughter) and 2) empty code fields that would signify the nature of the relationship.

There you have it! Eight ways to immediately make an impact on your database and its health. Database cleanup is critical for fundraising success. If you have other ideas, please share them below.

And don’t forget that we’re here to help! Let us know if you have any questions. Stay tuned for Part 3: 4 Ways to Clean Up Gifts in Your Database.

Check out Part 1: Updating Acknowledgement Letters.