Data Hygiene: How to Keep Data Clean and Healthy!

Your CiviCRM database is the central hub of your nonprofit's fundraising efforts, membership and contact management, event organization and other important ongoing initiatives. Because of its integral role in your organization, your database requires ongoing maintenance to ensure optimum performance. With nonprofit constituent mobility and employee turnover at an all-time high, data can quickly become messy and stale when data entry procedures for the organization are not properly regulated. 

To ensure consistent data entry by all users, every organization (even those run by a single person) should have a DES1 (Data Entry Standards) document that clearly outlines what information the organization aims to maintain and how it is entered in the database. Not only will the DES document act as a solid resource for data entry procedures, (especially for organizations with multiple CiviCRM users), it also serves as a tool to retain organizational knowledge. The preservation of organizational knowledge is vital to all organizations, but especially so for smaller organizations with only one or two CiviCRM users and organizations with high employee turnover rates. 

Here are some ways to keep your staff "in the know" regarding data entry procedures and policies:

The only way to preserve data hygiene is to validate, clean and refresh it periodically (e.g. remove duplicate entries, update verbiage in forms, etc.). A good preventive maintenance plan would include:

  • An audit of your data to identify the areas to be cleaned2
  • A clean-up plan/strategy that will limit downtime and not overwhelm - start with the most important areas first and avoid costly mistakes:
    • Always backup3 your database before you begin 
    • Avoid data loss - consider disabling instead of deleting
    • Get it right the first time - ask for help from those who know your data best
  • Use of activities to track the different phases of your clean-up plan and schedule future maintenance

The more data you have (and the more people you have entering it), the more frequently you will need to schedule preventive maintenance.  The following Data Hygiene series blog posts are available to help guide you through the audit process2:

If you are a Cividesk customer, your account manager would be happy to help. We can assist you with the creation of a clean-up plan as well as the execution of it. 

1. Click HERE to view an example of a DES document
2. Future blog posts will include CiviCRM-specific queries and groupings that should be assessed
3. Cividesk clients must currently email to create a support ticket requesting a backup, but soon you will be able to backup your database directly via the Desk!