Lunchtime Links: Don’t Get Stung by Bad Data

How scrubbing your database can save you money. Also: why you shouldn't be afraid to demolish struggling programs.

Collecting information about your members is important. But that data will create more problems than opportunities unless it’s kept up to date. The value of clean data, and more, in today’s Lunchtime Links.

Clean data: Fall is the busiest time of year for many nonprofits and associations. As Sara Rowland, business analyst for International Data Management, writes for the Nonprofit Technology Network Blog, “charities are gearing up for campaigns that will drive in a large volume of their year-end donations. Decisions are being made on which packages and audiences will drive the highest results.” Most of these decisions will be informed by data that organizations collect about their members and donors—who are these people, where do they live, and how do they spend their time? Associations will send out mailings, make phone calls, and conduct outreach to gear up support, all of which costs money. And it will cost you even more if your database and information systems are out of date, says Rowland. Nonprofits can waste thousands, sometimes millions, of dollars sending communications to obsolete email and home addresses. Rowland recalls one charity that sent more than 35,000 communications to members on its list who had passed away or were no longer affiliated with the organization. What steps does your organization take to scrub its data?

Instant crush: Smile—is your association on Instagram? A new report from competitive analysis firm TrackMaven suggests maybe it should be. Writing for CMSWire, Marisa Peacock says Instagram is quickly becoming one of the social networks of choice for a large percentage of Fortune 500 companies. Where other social networks urge you to accumulate followers, Instagram demonstrates its effectiveness through high levels of social engagement, Peacock notes. According to the TrackMaven report, out of the 123 Fortune 500 companies with registered Instagram accounts, 91 percent made at least one post on the network and 17 percent have posted a video or photo in the last 30 days. “You may think that Instagram is just for taking foodie photos or posting pics of your dog (guilty as charged!), but for brands, Instagram opens up a visual channel where they can post ‘behind the scenes’ images or playfully engage with customers,” writes Rowland. Don’t miss her tips for how to use Instagram to engage your audience.

Demolition derby: It’s no secret that the city of Detroit is in a bad way financially. Perhaps that’s why some prominent local business owners, including Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert, have suggested the road to renewal start with destruction. Writing for Forbes, contributor Adrienne Burke describes Gilbert’s controversial proposal for urban revival in the Motor City. His idea: Invest in a strong city center and tear the worst of the outskirts down. If it sounds radical, that’s because it is. But Gilbert suggests there is too much blight and waste in some struggling neighborhoods for revivalists to focus their efforts and resources effectively. Come to think of it, the same logic could apply to your association. Does your organization continue to spend money on efforts or programs that have proven ineffective or underused? Maybe it’s time to reconsider how and where you’re investing your resources. Heck, it might even be time to close a few things down.

Is your organization in need of an extreme makeover? Tell us in the comments.

Corey Murray

By Corey Murray

Corey Murray is a contributor to Associations Now. MORE

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