Spring Cleaning: Time to Ditch Old Donor Data and Clean Up Your Database

Marketing and Social Media

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Spring cleaning shouldn’t be limited to our own homes! The concept should also apply to your nonprofit. Duplicate or incorrect donor data doesn’t help your organization raise more money. Because it can be difficult to stay on top of donor database maintenance, make a point to audit your donor data at least once a year. The following tips will help you declutter your data.

It’s always a good rule of thumb to update donor profiles the minute you obtain new information. As a fundraiser, you know that accurate information helps you tailor your communications to donors. Tailored messaging helps you raise more money for your cause. But, with all that new data often comes a couple of mistakes. It’s important to set aside time to look for and merge duplicate donor records, update address information on donors, and even deactivate old, lapsed donor profiles. By taking steps to clean up your donor data, you’re making room on your mailing lists that you can fill with better prospects. Your nonprofit wastes resources when it sends the same appeal to a donor twice or sends appeals to bad addresses or long-lapsed donors.

Merge or remove your duplicate donor profiles

So, how do you clean up your database of donors?

The first step is to create a query of active records that share the same last name and address. Often, your donor database and CRM system will have their own duplicate record search tool you can use to quickly find what your database suspects are duplicate records.

I’m not going to lie and say this is a task you can complete quickly. If you’re combing through all the active records in a database, the search itself will likely take a while to complete. Then, you’ll have to go through those results to separate actual duplicate records from records that are just similar enough to one another to look like duplicates. When you’re merging records, you have the difficult choice of deciding which unique donor data from each profile to keep if you can’t include everything from both donor profiles. It’s hard work, but the rewards are great. You can cut down on mailing costs and keep your donors from receiving the same appeal twice.

Double check your donors’ addresses

Another way to ensure your donor data is accurate is double checking that donor addresses are current. The process to do this is simple and repeatable.

There are several wealth-screening platforms out there (some specifically for nonprofits). These tools allow you to search address, wealth, and giving information on consumers across the country. Many of these wealth-screening tools allow nonprofits to upload batches of donor names and addresses to their system for screening. These tools identify the correct individual using name and address data and lists current and former addresses. You can perform mass address updates on your active donor lists. Simply search and then compare current donor data against wealth screening data. Then, update your donor database with the most recent addresses. From there, keep addresses current by searching your mailing list addresses whenever you send a mailed appeal.

When you receive returned appeals with new forwarding addresses, update your donor data to reflect that. What if appeals are returned with no forwarding address? Mark that donor inactive (at least until a new address can be found).


These annual spring cleaning tasks can be a huge help to your organization. You’ll cut down the amount of resources wasted on duplicate appeals. You’ll also minimize the number of appeals returned due to invalid addresses! Improve your donor data by updating information and retiring lapsed donors. This helps you tailor your appeals to the best donor candidates. While these tasks may be time consuming, they’ll save you time, resources, and money throughout the year.

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