Importing Contacts into CiviCRM? Be Sure to Include an Import Identifier (Just in Case!)

When importing contacts into CiviCRM, you have the option of adding those contacts to a group and/or assigning them a tag. This will only apply to NEW contacts being imported, not to duplicate contacts that may be found and skipped or updated during import. A fool-proof method to identifying imported contacts (e.g. in order to be able to easily search and/or delete them if a mistake has been made) is to include a custom field for this purpose. I like to call it “Import Identifier”. The value you assign as the Import Identifier should correspond with the file that you are using for import so that you can easily cross-reference the two and verify that all contacts have indeed been imported (e.g. if the import file’s name is “Oct. 2017 Leads”, that should be the Import Identifier as well). Every import file should have its own unique import identifier.

The first step is to create a Custom Data Field for the Import Identifer:

  1. Administer > Customize Data and Screens > Custom Fields
  2. Either click the Add Set of Custom Fields button to create a new set of custom fields for use with Contacts (detailed instruction for which can be found HERE)or click the View and Edit Custom Fields hyperlink to the right-hand side of an existing custom data set already configured for use with Contacts
  3. If adding to an existing custom data set, click the Add Custom Field button (* indicates required fields):
    1. Field Label * = Import Identifier
    2. Data and Input Field Type = leave on the default values of Alphanumeric and Text
    3. Database field length = leave on the default value of 255
    4. Order * = leave on default value (this can be changed later if desired)
    5. Default Value = leave blank
    6. Field Pre Help = leave blank
    7. Field Post Help = leave blank
    8. Required? = leave untoggled
      Note: do not make custom fields required unless you want to force all users to enter a value anytime they add or edit this type of record - can always make the field required when used in a specific Profile form
    9. Is this Field Searchable? = toggle this option
    10. Active? = leave toggled
    11. View Only? = leave untoggled
    12. Click the Save button

The second step is to add a column to your import file with the header of "Import Indentifier" and enter the desired value for all rows of data being imported (e.g. "Oct. 2017 Leads”) and save the file in .CSV format

The last step is to use Contacts > Import Contacts and follow the steps in the import wizard to import your data

Now, let's say you are working on the "Nov. 2017 Leads" import but you can't for the life of you remember if you imported the "Oct. 2017 Leads" file, so you search for the imported contacts to make sure:

  1. Search > Advanced Search
  2. Click to expand the Custom Fields section
  3. Enter the import identifier used for the imported contacts in the Import Identifier field
  4. Click the Search button

The resulting contacts should match whoever was successfully imported from your "Oct. 2017 Leads" import file.