How to Clean Up Your Donor Database in HubSpot

Your fundraising efforts are only as good as the database driving them. A messy database with bounced email addresses, incomplete contact information, duplicate records, and no clear segmentation can lead to inefficient, underperforming campaigns. 


The HubSpot CRM is designed to make managing your contact records as easy as possible, but it won’t do it for you. Regular updates and cleaning are needed to keep the system organized and ready for big fundraising pushes. Let’s take a closer look at some of the routine maintenance you’ll need to schedule to keep your database campaign-ready. 


Fixing the Data Input Process


One of the most frustrating elements of a messy database is all the information you’re missing from contact records. While it’s possible to retroactively update records that are missing key address, employment, and contact information, it can be very time consuming and doesn’t scale well. 


To avoid this happening in the first place, set default requirements on forms and manual contact entry. Your HubSpot forms can be set to require certain fields - we recommend all basic contact information needed for the campaign such as email address, first and last name. You can also include additional details that will be used in future campaigns. As a word of caution, don’t ask for information you don’t necessarily need as it can lead to reduced form conversion rates. 



If contacts are manually entered into HubSpot, you can also set the default fields seen on this screen:



And which of them are required. This will ensure your team must have the correct information for all contacts before adding them to the database. 


Standardize Capitalization of Your Records


Do you have long lists of contacts that were imported into HubSpot with non-standard formatting? Are their names in all caps or are first names duplicated? These may seem like small issues, but they can wreak havoc on your personalization efforts, looking unprofessional in the most important instances when someone receives an email or is filling out a form. 


One of the best parts about HubSpot is that it has a large and active community of agencies, super users and marketers who are developing new solutions. You can create a workflow, for example, using a plugin from inbound-addons that will automatically convert UPPER CASE names to Title Case in your database. 



Depending on the nature of your data issues, there are other tools that can be used to clean up your records. The HubSpot Community forums are a great place to find solutions to questions others have asked or ask your own and get a sense of what is possible. 


Setup Defaults for All Potential Personalization Tokens 


If you have a large number of contact records, it’s always possible that some will be missing key information needed for segmentation and personalization. The only truly important property in HubSpot is the email address, which is used as the unique identifier for all contact records. Everything else can be as messy or incomplete as your data would allow. 


While there are ways to filter for and update this information, it’s also important to have fail-safes in place if you plan to use these properties. If your emails contain personalization tokens for the First Name, Company Name, Date of Donation, or other important items, you should have a default in place that will show a reasonable alternative if that property is empty. 



To set these defaults, go to Settings > Marketing > Email > Configuration. You’ll find options at the bottom of the screen to set Contact and Company Property Defaults for your personalization tokens. 


Creating Lists for Removal 


A big part of database cleanup is the removal of old contact records that you can no longer contact. While it’s a business decision when to do this for active records (how long do you want to try to reconvert a lapsed donor?) there are several categories that are already safe to remove. 


Because HubSpot charges additional money for every 1000 contacts in your database, regular cleanup is highly recommended to keep your costs down. At the same time, removing old and unused contacts can help improve delivery and open rates, which can have a positive long-term effect on your efforts. 


Common lists you should create include:


  • Bounced Contacts - HubSpot no longer sends to any contact whose email address bounced. While temporary bounces can happen, most bounced emails are the result of inaccurate data. People change jobs or misenter their email address in forms frequently. Create a Smart List that filters for all contacts who have at least one bounced email to capture all of these individuals. 
  • Unsubscribed Contacts - HubSpot has several properties to track subscription status. Create unique lists for each of them. You can manage your subscription types in the Settings > Marketing > Email > Subscription Types menu. Each type you create will have a unique property for subscription status. There is also a master property if they unsubscribe from all communications. Once someone has unsubscribed, HubSpot will no longer send them emails, so they are safe to remove. 
  • Inactive - Every organization has a different definition of “inactive”. Some mark contacts at 90 days. Others wait a full 180 or 365 days. Regardless of when you consider a contact inactive, create a list to capture them so you can review it periodically for contacts to remove from the system. 


Each of these should be a Smart List that will automatically update as new people meet the criteria, providing an easy to manage solution for contact cleanup. 


Screening for Inaccurate Records


Finally, there is a record review and cleanup. People change jobs on average every 2-3 years, and about 15% of the US population moves every year. And most of those people are slow to update their address and contact information, especially for anything aside from bills and government services. 


For addresses, NCOA offers a relatively low-cost solution to check for address changes and update your records. While you can’t run this directly in HubSpot, you can use an exported CSV and reupload with the updated relevant records. You should also periodically run searches in DeceasedRecordFinder to remove deceased contact records from your database. Email addresses can be checked for validity in tools like BriteVerify and NeverBounce, and run bulk searches for updated email addresses in Hunter.io. 


This can be a time-consuming process, especially if you fall behind or have a particularly large database, but the longer you allow your data to age, the more likely it is to become inaccurate, so it should be a regular part of your CRM maintenance. 


Building an Accurate Database for Fundraising Success


By scheduling the above tasks and regularly cleaning your database of outdated, invalid data, you can ensure a higher level of accuracy, performance, and results from your fundraising efforts. Combined with the right payment gateway to capture the information in the first place and reduce friction for your prospects, you can greatly improve your results.

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