Friday, December 21, 2012

Data Integrity or the Silver Lining of Mistakes

I’ve been doing some prospecting lately (I just can’t force myself to say “suspecting”) and was reminded that one of the best prospecting resources is the information you already have: your own prospect database. Whether it’s an Excel spreadsheet or some fancy, store-bought product, it is a trove of treasure. Everyone is there for a reason. They’ve either already given money (a good predictor of future giving) or they’ve participated as a board member or volunteer or, in our case, an alum (a good demonstrator of inclination).

Your prospect database is the rare resource over which you may have some degree of control, so it makes sense to take full advantage. Take the time to update the information about your prospects, especially home addresses and employment. While you are in the process, it’s also a great opportunity to add vacation homes and investment properties. You never know which detail will be the one to make the difference.

I also want to mention the importance of correcting mistakes currently in the database. Our data entry staff is top-notch, so I want to be clear that I’m not criticizing their work. It’s just a reality that with the volume of entries they deal with on a daily basis, mistakes are bound to happen. When they do happen, correct them as soon as possible. Remember, the Murphy’s Law of prospect research states that whenever there’s a mistake, it will involve a major donor.

I’ll close with a mistake-based anecdote. In searching LinkedIn, I found a person who had listed our university as her education. She was an executive in a public company, and the latest proxy statement showed she had a ton of stock and high compensation. When I looked for her in our database, I couldn’t find her. I tried what seemed like her maiden name. Nothing. (This is the proverbial fork in the proverbial road: you could give up here or you could keep going. I say keep going!) I did a bit more searching and found an article including both the misspelled and correct versions of her name. I checked our database using the misspelled name, and there she was. With her information updated, now this person is a known entity again. She’s in the pipeline to be contacted by our development officers. And that’s the silver lining.

Mitch Roberson, Communications Director, APRA MidSouth

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