One inevitable aspect of purchasing a new database is moving all of your existing data into your new system. Moving your data into a new database system is just like packing up and moving into a new house – only better. No sore back, no broken stuff, no begging your friends for help or having to buy pizza and beer (unless you want to).

Whether you’re preparing your data for a price estimate, or getting ready for your final data migration, here are 5 easy steps to follow for a smooth data transfer.

Moving your data to a new platform:

  1. Find all of your data. Not just the data you personally work with, but data from all departments that will be migrated into your new system. Databases, spreadsheets, email lists, data collected from your website and yes, paper files – we know you have some. Use this Data Inventory Worksheet (PDF) to help discover where data silos may be hiding.
  2. Assess. As an organization, talk about and write down why you have this data and how it’s used. How does it further your mission? Do many departments use this same data? How old is it, and is the data still relevant and active?
  3. Clean Up. De-duplicate records, and eliminate multiple entries of the same exact information. Combine files and standardize headings. Remove old data or inactive donors and contacts from your list, and retain those in an archived file. Use this Data Clean-Up Checklist (PDF) to help you work through your member records.
  4. Update your data with all the most recent information available. Append missing information or add new data that will help your organization succeed. Standardize your files and mirror the fields in your new system. If the field is “First Name” make sure the last name isn’t crammed in there too.
  5. Look again. Ask around one final time. Secret spreadsheets and databases might be found, or sheepishly given up, finally.

See, no boxes, no tape or padding needed! Make sure to do some data checks and searches in your new system for accuracy. Expect a little data tweaking to be necessary, but for the most part – if you follow the 5 easy steps you’ll be raising more money, building more support and making the world a better place in no time!