Home System concept Charity Digital – Topics – How to keep your CRM clean

Charity Digital – Topics – How to keep your CRM clean


Implementing a constituent relationship management (CRM) system isn’t easy and keeping it up to date can be challenging. “Garbage in, garbage out” is a phrase often used to describe how the quality of input data affects output. For charities using CRM systems, this concept is very true.

Despite the administrative burdens, CRM tools have significant advantages. To keep pace with changes to your donors, volunteers, and audiences, we explain why it’s important to keep your data clean.

What is CRM Cleanup?

Does your CRM system work perfectly and allow you to determine trends in your audiences? Simply put, Salesforce says the system should be able to:

  • improve analytical data and reporting
  • improve organizational information
  • coordinate multiple teams
  • improve customer service
  • automate tasks

To make your investment worthwhile, the system must have reliable data. If the data entered into your CRM system is not accurate, contains duplicate records, or has an incomplete data set, the system will not work properly. Charities with poor quality data may make decisions based on faulty facts.

CRM cleaning is the process of validating entries. This is often time consuming and needs to be done on an ongoing basis, but can help charities reap the maximum benefit.

Best practice for keeping your CRM system clean

Keeping your data clean means making sure what’s going on and inside the system is accurate and up to date. Our top tips for keeping your system in shape include:

  1. Ensure you have a data entry process

Going back to the “garbage in, garbage out” maxim, entering clean and verified data into the CRM system prevents errors.

Hubspot recommends standardizing how charities enter data. This means creating records with the required entries. When entering contact details, deciding which fields are needed to complete the record helps keep the data clean.

Ensure that at a basic level each entry has an email address, rather than a combination of email addresses, phone numbers and postal contact details. Ultimately, what you collect for each record should be the same for all entries.

Pro Tip: Include drop-down fields and format restrictions to help improve the quality of data entering the system.

  1. Keep formatting consistent

For detail-oriented charities, formatting is important. Proper formatting means having only one way to record information. For titles, decide how you will record “Mr” and “Mister” or “M”. The syntax is important because CRM systems treat each record as different even though the notation means the same thing.

CRM Dynamics offers tips for improving quality. They suggest introducing standards for each field you’re trying to capture, then noting any exceptions in free text fields.

Pro Tip: Go around and remove abbreviations. Inconsistent abbreviations may not appear in general searches.

  1. Use data cleansing services

Ensuring that contact details are correct is a priority. This means ensuring that the details are correct, i.e. that the supporters have given the correct information. Data scrubbers confirm the details are real without making contact.

Addressing the problem of fake details, Zoho’s CRM system includes modules that automatically verify content. The modules ensure that emails, addresses and phone numbers are in the correct format and validate them.

For charities on Salesforce, Cloudingo connects to the CRM system and checks for duplicate entries and inaccurate data. The plugin allows charities to search for specific criteria and flag records that may be “dirty”. Other plug-ins offer services to correct phone numbers and addresses.

Pro tip: Zoho and Cloudingo both include free trials. Try before committing to long-term contracts.

  1. Reduce the number of unused fields

To reduce the noise in your CRM system, regularly review the fields you actually need and use. There may be fields in your entries of which only a few are populated. If you can remove these fields, there will be less opportunity for data entry errors.

Pro Tip: Have only the number of fields you need.

  1. Establish a regular cleaning schedule

There are so many reasons to keep your CRM data clean in addition to knowing more about your audience. GDPR laws state that charities are only legally allowed to retain data for a certain period of time. Data should be cleaned and purged at regular intervals. Additionally, Salesforce estimates that 70% of collected CRM data becomes stale every year.

Keep control of the quality of your data by implementing a regular and continuous cleaning program. This means reviewing contact details and check-in histories and ensuring they are correct.

Pro Tip: During fundraising seasons, note any changes in contact information or email returns. Modify your CRM data accordingly.