Database management is TOUGH, especially if you’re doing it all manually. Over time, you’re bound to find typos, duplicates, outdated information, and maybe even some false information altogether. That’s why from time to time, it’s good to give your database a little scrubbing.
But with 500+ members, where do you even begin? Here are a few tips:
1. Assemble a team
Even if you’re a staff of one, it’s best to get a team involved when it comes to a project like this. After all, while this is going on, you still have your association to manage. So the more people you can get involved, the better (for you and your database).
If you do have other staff members, assign them various parts to clean. But if you don’t, ask for volunteers. Now note: A lot of what’s in your member database is confidential information, so if you do ask for volunteers, consider asking them to help out with other aspects of managing your association (writing copy for your newsletter, mailing out dues renewal reminders, contacting companies and organizations regarding sponsorships, etc.). This will free up your time to focus more on your database cleaning.
2. Backup your data
This is a step that you absolutely can’t skip. Before doing anything, make SURE your data is backed up. The last thing you want is to lose member data, regardless of whether that information is outdated or not.
(Note: If you have some kind of software system in place, such as an association management system, it should securely backup your data for you, giving you one less thing to worry about. But definitely confirm that with the company you’re working with before taking any action.)
3. Prioritize your lists/sections
If you look at your database as a whole, you’re going to feel completely overwhelmed. That’s hundreds, if not thousands, of fields of data for you to scroll through and verify. And let me tell you, if you look at it that way, you’re not going to make it though. (That’s a panic attack waiting to happen.)
Instead, break the project up into segments. Determine what lists or fields are the most important right now. Is it your standard member list? Your donor list? Your former executive staff and/or committee list? Whatever it is, start there. Then slowly work your way through each section.
4. Analyze your data
Once you’ve determined which list or section you’re going to start on first, it’s then time to start analyzing. Scroll through your data and keep a close eye out for typos, formatting, and accuracy. You’ll want to keep a close out eye for duplicates as well. (For example, Mike Smith and Mike R. Smith could be the same person.) To make this process easier, sort your database alphabetically. (If you’re using Excel, select the column you’d like to alphabetize - in this case, the column with your members’ names - then click Data, Sort and Filter, A → Z.) If your data is listed alphabetically, you’ll have a better chance of spotting duplicates, as they’ll likely be next to or semi-near each other.
5. Encourage your members to help
Sometimes, cleaning up member data can be a little bit of a guessing game. How do you know an address is up to date? Or that a member’s title or profession hasn’t changed? You don’t. But you know who has ALL the answers? Your members! Encourage them to log into their profiles and update their standard information. Let them know that the more up-to-date their information is, the more you’ll be able to assist them and the better their member experience will be.
Like we said, database management (and cleaning in particular) is tough. So why not take advantage of all the help you can get. If you’re not using an association management system, you may want to reconsider. An AMS can help you securely backup your data, sort your data, and make it easy for your members to login and update their data. (Sounds a lot easier than doing it all manually, right?)
Want to see what else an AMS can do? Check out our free guide, What Is an AMS?