A Whole Different Conversation: The Importance of Data Enrichment For Advancement

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The following article is sponsored by SSB

One of the top frustrations I hear from fundraisers is this: the data isn’t good enough.

Too often, those fundraisers are right. Advancement data is frequently incomplete, poorly managed, or just wrong. Even when the data has been verified, advancement professionals often hesitate to trust it. They’ve been burned before, and badly.

Imagine this: a development officer receives the name of a fantastic new prospect. They call the individual to thank them for their recent gift ($10,000, unrestricted) and ask if they’re coming back to campus for the next homecoming (their 20th reunion), as the English department is hosting a special event for its alumni.

On the other end of the line, there is silence. The prospect is baffled. They didn’t graduate 20 years ago with a degree in English; that was their son, who also went to the institution but should have the Jr. suffix on their record in the database. 

When the development officer hangs up the phone, they can correct those errors in the database, but the damage is done. They’ve wasted valuable time and energy, only to undermine the prospect’s faith in the institution. After all, if you can’t track the donor’s gifts and engagement properly, how can you effectively utilize their money?

Many fundraisers have had similar conversations — or worse — simply because they were working from bad data. But it doesn’t have to be this way. 

Good data enrichment helps elevate our advancement data and ensure that it presents as complete and accurate a picture of our alumni, donors and prospects as possible. This allows you to change the conversation, moving relationships forward instead of backward to reach our goals.

But what exactly is data enrichment, and how can it help you better understand and engage with your advancement prospects? In this post, we’ll dive into the core of those questions.

What Is Data Enrichment?

Data enrichment is part data quality, part data management, and part data supplementation. It aims to improve the efficiency, usefulness, and quality of your advancement data.

Data enrichment often starts with data matching. Digging into the data, you can discover where it overlaps, combining and rearranging records as needed to keep the database tidy. This helps ensure that you have the right information and that it’s organized in the right way, essential elements of data quality.

Data matching creates a strong data foundation for data supplementation to build on. With data enrichment, you often pull in key data from across campus, making sure that the internal picture of our alumni and prospects is complete. In addition, you might source external information to populate helpful fields like contact details, employer information, and more. This expands the boundaries of your institutional data, giving you a fuller picture of your prospects on campus and beyond.

Why Data Enrichment Is So Important In Advancement

Remember that prospect call that went so poorly (how could you forget)? With data enrichment, your team might have caught — and corrected — those data errors early on. The gift would have been attributed to the correct record, prompting an entirely different conversation, one that led to a deeper relationship with the prospect instead of damaging it..

Good data is essential to engaging your alumni and prospects and to engaging with them well. It helps you be confident in our outreach and strategy, focus on the right prospects at the right time, and curate a custom experience for them too.

As we’ve seen, bad data can stop fundraising in its tracks. If you’re having the wrong conversations, spinning your wheels on the wrong prospects, or struggling to trust your data, good data enrichment providers can help.

Barriers to Data Enrichment

Finding and matching data by hand is tedious and time-consuming, making manual processes a major barrier to effective data enrichment. These efforts often come at the cost of other, more strategic work.

Another barrier to data enrichment is adding good data to bad. This only produces more bad data, widening the distance between the truth and the data you have at your fingertips. Addressing existing issues in the data before enhancing it is critical to ensuring that any supplemental information lands in the right place.

How SSB Approaches Data Enrichment to Change The Conversation

At SSB, data enrichment is the core of what we do, and we want to help you center it in your work as well.

Identity Resolution

SSB’s data enrichment processes always start with identity resolution. This often-overlooked step is critical to supporting good data and finding the right data for the right person. With effective identity resolution, both the father and son’s records from the example earlier would have been properly updated in the CRM. 

Identity resolution is, in its most basic form, data matching. With identity resolution, we match up the records for Jon, Jonathan and J.R. Smith, determining if they are and should be the same. 

But we don’t just match on names, potentially mixing up two distinct constituents. Our algorithms compare names and at least two unique data points, such as address, phone, email, education, etc., to ensure accurate matches. And when we’re unsure, potential matches get handed to the client for manual review and decision-making.

Data Enhancement

Once we’ve resolved all the identity issues in the data, we can enhance or supplement the data with additional information found in internal and external sources. SSB pulls together hundreds of useful data points, including emails and phone numbers, wealth indicators, employment, interests, and addresses. 

This allows us to verify, correct, and add to the data in your CRM, ensuring that you have access to the most complete, concise, and accurate data possible.

We provide updated contact information, employment, education, and wealth ratings. One of the key purposes of this is that we can tell our clients which records have new information to reduce manual review on their end. If we don’t have updates for a constituent or prospect, we let the client know that the data they have on that constituent or prospect is good data.

Data Analytics

Through SSB’s data analytics, we can further support good data quality, and we can provide critical insights as well. Action flags highlight data that needs review, assisting with data hygiene and noting important constituents. We also provide other analytics flags such as business owner, high wealth etc. We also are very consultative and provide our clients with training documents and meetings to help them understand data provided back to them and use it effectively. In addition, using both internal and external data allows us to produce wealth and inclination scores, gift capacity ratings, and visualizations to help you make informed decisions and drive your prospect strategy forward. 

Our analytics solutions are configurable. We don’t apply the same logic to every client’s set of data; instead, we review each client’s data and configure our solutions to produce the best actionable analytics insights.

Driving Better Conversations in Advancement

With data enrichment and analytics, that phone call with the prospect might have gone very differently. 

When the $10,000 gift was received, the development officer who owns the relationship might have made the call instead. They could have thanked the constituent for their installment and updated them on the project they helped fund. They might have asked about the donor’s son, if the son planned to visit campus for their 20th reunion, and whether the donor might be coming along. With additional information from data enrichment or prospect research, they might have congratulated the donor about an award that they recently received, honoring a 45-year career in engineering.

This is the type of conversation we want to have, one that leaves our alumni and donors charmed instead of baffled. These are the conversations that advance our work and the mission of our institution, and they are possible with data enrichment.

Learn More About SSB’s Data Enrichment

We want to show you how SSB can help you change the conversations you’re having with your alumni and donors. Learn more about our data enrichment and analytics services or even set up a demo with our expert team.

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A Whole Different Conversation: The Importance of Data Enrichment For Advancement