Your organization likely has a wealth of information about donors, volunteers, and members. All of this data can be quite overwhelming, and using it strategically is the best way to see successful results. However, collecting volumes of data for the sake of collecting, isn’t going to help you much. Data is more than just stuff your organization should hoard in the dark corners of your CRM (Customer Relationship Management) database. Donor data can serve as a great tool if the following two areas are done well:

  1. Maintaining good data (how you gather and store it)
  2. Analyzing the data (how you use it to get results)

In this blog entry, we’ll dive into the first area, the power of maintaining your data. You can have practical data analyzing tactics and fancy-looking reports, but if they are based on poor data, then the analysis will fuel bad strategies and yield weak results. A well-known proverb states that “a chain is as strong as its weakest link.” In much the same way, it doesn’t matter how robust your data analysis is if your data quality is weak.

How Do You Know If You Have Good or Bad Data?

Each charitable organization will value data differently. It’s hard to gauge what good versus bad is across the board. There is no single magical answer, but in general, if the three signs listed below are present at your organization, then it should raise red flags.

Lack of Direction – What kind of information are you collecting? Why are you choosing to collect those data points over others?
The solution: Clearly identifying actionable goals and collecting the data to help you reach those goals will guide the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ behind your data.

Messiness – Are there inconsistencies in how the data points are recorded? Do you have a clutter of information that you don’t need and should be purged? Is there missing data?
The solution: A well-documented Data Standards Guide will help keep your data consistent and organized.

Unreliable Dedication – Does everyone in your organization understand the importance of maintaining a clean database? Do all departments value the same data points? Does everyone follow the same steps when adding information to the database?
The solution: Implementing a maintenance process that everyone in the organization follows will keep your data clean over the long haul.


Create a Data Standards Cheat Sheet

Download a free template of a data standards cheat sheet for your nonprofit CRM

Your organization likely has volumes of data about donors, volunteers, and members. All of this information can be quite overwhelming if you don't use it properly. Download this cheat sheet template to record at a glance information about the data elements in your CRM (customer relationship management) database.

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Determine What Data Should Matter to Your Organization

What are some fundamental data points you should have? Below is a chart that includes examples of common data points that Andar Software customers collect in Andar/360. This list is a good starting point, but you should also look at your organizational goals to determine if some suggestions don’t apply to you, or if any details are missing.




Your goals should inform what data to collect. For instance, a goal can be to increase the number of ‘personal’ email addresses you collect. If your organization predominantly does workplace campaigning, then having updated personal email addresses is a great way to reach your contacts even if they leave the workplace (because they have switched jobs or retired.) Collecting a ‘personal’ email address minimizes the risk of losing the donor. Another goal for your organization might be to build a list of community volunteers that you can quickly contact via text messaging. To reach this goal, you will need to collect cell phone numbers and make sure that the numbers are entered into the system as personal cell phones, not work phones or home lines.

Clarify How Information Should be Collected

Having a Data Standards Guide that everyone in the organization is familiar with aids in maintaining a healthy database. A guide like this must list all the different data points along with their definitions, reasons why they are collected, and where in the database they are housed. The standards can greatly vary from one charity to the next. One organization might have different rules for recording prefixes and suffixes than another organization does. What matters is that the right information is recorded consistently across the database.

The standards you identify will be determined based on how your organization wants to interact with its contacts. A simple example is whether email addresses are categorized where they belong. Are the addresses ‘work’ emails or ‘personal’ emails? If your organization wants to target individual community donations, then personal email addresses will need to be identified. Finding Gmail or Hotmail addresses under the ‘Work Email’ field in your database is a clear sign that your data isn’t as clean as it should be.

Knowing what your Data Standards Guide should include can be somewhat daunting at first. Andar Software customers can download a sample Data Standards Guide from Customer Support. This guide was created to provide guidance and ideas. Before making it your organization’s formal guide, review the content, and adapt it to your needs and goals.


Maintain Great Data Standards

 Nonprofit Data Standards Guide

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Learn what qualifies as good data. Plus, discover more about pecking orders, running reports, and reviewing data.

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Put an Effective Process in Place

A Data Standards Guide can be lengthy and complicated. To increase the chances of it being used properly, we suggest making the guide available to everyone in the organization. Below are some tips:

  • Train all staff about the different aspects of the guide and how to follow it.
  • Provide a condensed version of the Data Standards Guide in the form of a Data Standards Cheat Sheet to help users understand and locate data elements at a glance. You can download a template of a Data Standards Cheat Sheet from our Free Resources webpage.
  • Have a database champion that knows the system well and will be responsible for updating the Data Standards Guide (plus its accompanying documents) and communicating any changes to staff.
  • Have a Data Integrity Team that includes one representative from every department in your organization to guarantee that all departments’ needs are met.
  • Identify a process to inform how updates should be made and when and how the database should be reviewed.

Where You House Your Data Is Also Important

Having all of your data in one database allows you to more easily locate all your information. There are fewer chances for data inconsistencies across your organization when you use one system. If your organization has some data in spreadsheets and other data in one or two CRMs, then your chances for data inconsistencies increase.

The ultimate goal would be to have volunteer info, event info, donations and designations all in one place. Why is that? Because when data is in one place, it becomes easier to pull together, report on, and analyze. Consolidating data from different sources takes hours and is a practice that’s vulnerable to mistakes.


To be a data-driven organization and make great decisions, the data you use must be tied to your goals. The information you gather also needs to be organized, and it should be consistently maintained. Your organization will see positive results by implementing a Data Standards Guide. Applying all of these data processes takes a lot of effort, but the outcomes will significantly benefit your development and outreach efforts.


Choosing the Right CRM Strategy

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This webinar will help Development Teams, Back-Office Teams, and Executives evaluate the differences between using Andar/360 as their CRM, using Salesforce as their CRM, or using both options concurrently.

We will discuss the data management opportunities available and uncover the pros and cons of each one.

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