Mar/Apr 2007

5 Tips for Leveraging Constituent Data to Help Nonprofits Get Big Results

by Thomas Aitchison, Product Marketing Manager, Convio

Convio research shows that nonprofits can increase the effectiveness of their marketing and fundraising programs by using both online and offline channels to communicate with constituents. Leveraging a multi-channel, integrated approach enables you to segment constituents to conduct targeted marketing, communicate with them in a more relevant and personalized manner and track their history of interaction with your organization.

While features incorporated into Convio products better equip you to build strong integrated marketing programs, your organization must also practice strong data hygiene. How healthy is your data? This is an important question to ask yourself as you seek to build integrated marketing and fundraising campaigns that drive stronger results.

Here are five tips for maintaining good data hygiene that will help you establish a more effective integrated marketing system:

  1. Get control of your offline database
    Before you can share data between online and offline databases, your data must be in a usable format. The most common problem that must be addressed is duplicate constituent records. This is a very common issue with donor databases and it is much easier to resolve before the data is shared with your online system. Another common problem is data formatting; street addresses should be in a format that is easy to use, and names should not be in all capital letters. No online system can fix existing problems with data offline — in fact, exchanging data with a system that already has poor data hygiene can make the problem worse. However, if you start with a well thought out offline constituent database, your move to an integrated online/offline platform will be much smoother and yield better results.

  2. Use unique identifiers
    If your constituent database provides unique identification (ID) numbers, upload those ID numbers into your online system. By uploading the ID number, you are ensuring that the online database can positively identify a constituent when performing future imports and exports. In addition, you should ensure that each constituent has his or her own email address. Many online systems use an email address as a unique identifier for the constituent. If multiple people, such as spouses or members of a group, have the same email address, you are unable to track individual activities and donations, which significantly limits your ability to segment your database and personalize content to specific groups.

  3. Review new online records
    A key tenet to building online relationships is making it easy for constituents to donate, sign up for a newsletter or take other action online. However, while your staff may be trained to enter information carefully in your offline system, there is no effective way to have your constituents do the same for their online activity, which may result in incorrect or duplicate information.

    Therefore, it's especially important that you monitor data frequently and remain diligent in identifying and resolving duplicate contacts. Convio helps make this easier with duplicate detection and resolution features in its products that allow you to automatically identify and resolve duplicate accounts in your online system.

  4. Use auto log-in
    If constituents take an action on your site without logging in, you've missed an opportunity to learn more about them and build a stronger relationship. You have a great opportunity to ensure that they log in by using auto-login links in communications that you send to them. Auto-login capabilities available in the Convio system, for example, help ensure that individuals can easily log in to your organization's Web site, which further enables you to effectively track their online actions.

  5. Leverage the strengths of different databases
    Online and offline databases have different strengths. Your offline database is meant to store a full rich history of constituents including all offline and online activity. In contrast, your online database is designed to collect information gathered through online paths that will help you with personalization and segmentation. Understanding this distinction can help you determine what information you should transfer between your two systems. For example, you can save time and energy by performing extensive segmentation in your offline system, and then uploading the relevant information for the online users into the online system. The bottom line: share only the data that you need.


Constituent data is one of your most valuable assets, and you have a lot to gain from ensuring accuracy and organization in your online and offline databases. Be sure to treat your data with the respect that it deserves. Take control over managing it yourself: proactively decide how you want to format your data, look for bad data, resolve duplicates frequently, use auto login and only transfer data when you need to.

5 Tips for Leveraging Constituent Data to Help Nonprofits Get Big Results | Convio