Data Integrity — What's It Mean and What’s the Big Deal?

Today’s guest blog post is written by Ameris Poquette, Client Administrator, Patron Technology.

The term “data integrity” is one that gets thrown around a lot, especially in reference to large data sets and data security. But what exactly is data integrity, and why does it matter to you? More specifically, how can better data integrity help you better reach your patrons, and cultivate a more engaged following?

At its core, data integrity just refers to the accuracy and consistency of your data. Think about the patron information you’re currently housing. Is it all information that you need to have on file? And is it easy to access any (and all) of the information you need to access when you need it? If the answer to either of those questions is “no,” then you might need to improve your data integrity.

Having clean and accurate data is important, and the ability to frequently and appropriately engage with your patrons and donors can be invaluable as an arts organization. A big part of this is making sure you are entering and retaining the right information, and making sure your database is free of duplicates. If you have three email addresses for James, how will you know where to send the acknowledgment email when he makes a donation? And how can you recommend shows for patrons based on previous attendance if you don’t know what shows they have attended?

So WHAT can you do to improve the quality of your data, make your patron information more manageable, and make sure you always have what you need at your fingertips? Though it might seem obvious, the first step is to make sure you only have one set of patron information that you are using for communication purposes. Having multiple email lists or places where you gather information that you don’t later merge into one “master” list is an easy way to have duplicates and generally not be well aware of what lists your patrons are subscribing to or shows they are attending.

Secondly, develop a set of “best practices” that you train all of your staff in. Having consistent data starts with maintaining consistent procedures for gathering that data. Make sure all of your staff is entering the information the same way, and into the same place, and have a way to make sure that the information being collected doesn’t already exist.

This leads me to my last point: take a look at the way you house your data, and make sure it’s meeting your needs. Does it allow you to easily enter, access, and maintain it? If not, consider exploring your options and finding a system that offers everything that you need. It’s possible an email marketing system works well for you, or maybe you need something a bit more comprehensive, like a customer relationship manager, to track what shows patrons attend, and how much they donate. Either way, make sure you know what’s available to you so you can choose a system that helps your organization achieve its business goals.

Data integrity can seem like a daunting topic, and often goes overlooked. Luckily, with a few easy steps, you can make big strides toward improving and maintaining the accuracy of your database, and thereby the relationship you have with your patrons.

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