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Tips for Smooth Data Migration

Data is the lifeblood of any nonprofit organization. Although most organizations would love to “set it and forget it,” sometimes data has to move. If you’re facing a data migration project—perhaps you’re changing systems and need to move the data from one to another—some key techniques can ease the process. Following best practices when performing data migration tasks can help you ensure that after the data finds its new home, it’s accurate, complete, and easy to access.

Assess Current and Future Needs

Data migration to a new platform is akin to moving house. Before migrating data over, objectively assess the fields and objects you’re using to ensure that they are appropriate to the current and future needs of your nonprofit’s operations, processes, and reporting functions. If they are outdated and no longer useful, scuttle them, or adapt them to meet your organization’s current needs.

Purge Irrelevant and Unnecessary Data

Regulations and compliance requirements can change often in the nonprofit sector. Attempting to migrate huge chunks of data that is no longer necessary or relevant to your organization and integrating it into a new system could require countless additional staff hours and inflate your budget. Thoroughly assess aged data to determine if it must be ported over to the new system. Chances are that once the legal limitations for keeping such data have passed, your organization won’t need it.

Clean Up Data Before Migration

Before the migration of your organization’s data, devote a substantial amount of time to cleaning it up. Delegate individuals with the task of doing so. There are a few key areas that you should pay particular attention to during this cleaning phase:

  • Duplication: Remove duplicate data to streamline functions and reduce confusion.
  • Set Data Policies: It’s not unusual to find incomplete data for contacts, donors and opportunities within a database. Establishing policies that data must meet in order to be included makes business processes easier in the long term. For example, make it a requirement that certain fields, such as a Contact Role, must be filled in for each entry.
  • Remove Incomplete Entries:  Based on the data policies enacted above, remove data that doesn’t meet those parameters so that it isn’t migrated to the new platform.

Establish a Long-term Strategy to Manage Data

Many of the best practices for data integration and migration hinge on using this event as an opportunity to streamline your nonprofit’s information to make it easier to use. This isn’t designed to be a quick fix though. Instead, establish a long-term strategy that can be used to maintain data on a regular basis with the goal of having clean data in the future. 

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