I tend to harp on the critical importance of professional data entry and gift processing. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, it’s important that I reiterate this to each and every one of my clients going through database staff turnover.
The knee-jerk tendency when rehiring database positions can be to see an opportunity to cut costs. It can’t be that hard, right, why not hire it as a relatively low-wage, entry-level position and save some money?
Let me offer my two cents. After 16 years of fundraising database consulting, the single most important piece of wisdom that I can impart on my clients and colleagues is to take the data entry and gift processing position seriously. It is certainly not a job for someone inexperienced or under-trained.
We all know, and are probably sick of hearing, the old adage: Garbage in, garbage out. I’ve come to realize over the years that many of the Directors looking to hire this position tend to take that to assume that the garbage is coming from a sloppy typist or no attention to detail. But let’s take a closer look at just some of what it takes to be an ace gift processor:
An understanding of tax laws and how they apply to different types of gifts.
- For example, there is a very specific protocol for stock and property donations. Matching gifts also get a specific treatment. In accordance with your 501(c)3 status, there are legalities involved in choosing which fund to apply a gift to. How and when is it OK to use soft credits? What is tax deductible and what is not? How do I calculate partial tax deductibility? And then there’s workplace giving, which I’m sure many of you are nervously chuckling about as you read this.
Experience coordinating and reconciling with the Finance Department.
- A good gift processor should be able to identify red flags and keep the data flowing smoothly between your fundraising database and your accounting software.Is your database setup to communicate effectively and reconcile with your Finance Department? How should event gifts be tracked when a portion of the proceeds goes to a certain fund? And if a donor calls and wants to change their gift, what happens next?
Confidence in maintaining and utilizing a gift code structure that achieves your organization’s goals and reporting needs.
- Fundraising databases are built to be flexible enough to accommodate many types of nonprofits. You need a gift processor who understands your unique needs and can reflect that in the coding of your gifts: consistently, accurately and with vision for tracking this information past, present and future.
There is a decision making process involved for every gift entered. The ability to think critically and thoroughly about each gift, using a breadth of knowledge of nonprofit management in addition to understanding the unique needs of your organization is what it really takes to maintain a clean and highly functional database. The ‘garbage’ isn’t sloppy typing or poor attention to detail. We aren’t talking about a simple typist, data input job. The garbage usually comes from well-meaning employees who just don’t have the experience, knowledge or training to understand the consequences of their inputs.
I have long been, and will always be an advocate for professionally managed data, including data entry. The integrity of your data, the cornerstone of your fundraising efforts, starts here.