Everything but the Kitchen ... Sync!
1. Establish the business goals for data integration. Before going out and creating anything, think about what data is most important to integrate — and where to store it. We recommend creating experience-based use cases for what data is needed, how frequently and where, as well as determining what the results yield in terms of tangible outcomes. For example, what online activity data do you want to use for offline segmentation or customization of messaging? Conversely, what information from your offline database of record do you need to sync with your online database to customize e-mail messaging (ask string, interest areas, etc.)?
Try to estimate the value that integrated data brings to your program — that might be revenue improvement or staff time savings. Talk to your peers, and read benchmarking reports that measure the value of multichannel donors. The investment in data integration can be significant, and you need to justify your business case.
2. Get executive-level buy-in. This can happen before or after establishing the business goals, but it is important to have before beginning work.
3. Create a working group that focuses on the sync. Depending on your organizational structure, this group should include a knowledgeable member of the offline database team (potentially more than one if there are multiple offline databases), the same for the online database/ECRM and fundraising staff — with emphasis on the heaviest users of the data (likely the direct-response team).
4. Determine which system is your database of record. Which system takes priority over the other — especially if there are changes on both systems? From a practical perspective, you don’t want to have to check multiple databases against the National Change of Address registry.
5. Map the process. Determine which fields align on each system and what the match criteria is (and consider that it may be different from one system to the other). Tip: Keep in mind that just because fields are labeled the same on each system doesn’t mean they contain the same data!