Association Management

Today is the Day to Clean Your Association’s Database

By Dani Mihalic • October 27, 2022

Data has become a powerhouse for organizations over the recent decades. And for associations, data can be defined in so many ways. Many of these areas have the opportunity to be cleansed on a regular basis, such as information you have on file about members, past members, partner companies, job seekers and more. However, there are subsets of data that an association has access to — and can leverage for decision-making — that aren’t necessarily cleansable, and that’s to be expected. Spending time learning to understand what data should consistently be cleansed, why it should be cleansed and how to cleanse and organize it is one step in an association’s journey to cleaner data. 

With many associations using either a traditional CRM — think Salesforce or Microsoft Dynamics — or association management software (AMS) tools to manage most of the data that they accumulate through the inner workings of their operations, they’re already on track to start a data cleansing project. For those working in spreadsheets to manage membership, event registrations, and more, cleaning your data might not be ready at this time since the “same” data can potentially live in 100 different forms throughout the organization and, chances are, no one is sure which one has the correct information. However, that doesn’t mean that your association doesn’t have an opportunity to improve. If you’re interested in data cleanliness and this is your current situation, it is likely time to consider migrating to a CRM or AMS as your first step, which will offer your association “one source of truth.” 

Why You Should Clean Your Database

Your database should be considered a connected ecosystem that allows a holistic view into your association and the many initiatives underway with their respective statuses, such as membership renewal or a sales status. And the cleaner the database, the better perspective and insights you can gain to help guide strategies that will aid in reaching your association’s goals. 

Every department will have unique goals that will be more attainable with clean data. Let’s break down a few “whys” as they connect to specific teams and the benefit that clean data can provide. 

Executive Leadership

Executives use data to help keep an organization on track to meet goals financially and as they connect to an association’s mission and promise to the industry the association serves. Database insights correlated to sales can help identify organizational health for upcoming quarters. Similarly, if pipelines aren’t full — or don’t seem to be moving because no one is updating the data — it can signal the need for an updated strategy to reach goals. In terms of fulfilling an association’s mission, leveraging data tied to membership increases and declines, event attendance or lack thereof, and sponsorship renewals can help take the pulse in the industry and can directly correlate to the perception the market has about partnering with the association. If data isn’t up to date in these areas, executives will have an incorrect 360-degree view of the health of the organization and could make decisions without all the essential information.


Most marketing teams use information from their databases to create different segments to increase member engagement, attract new members and job seekers, and aid in sales efforts connected to exhibitor, advertising, sponsorship and job posting sales to earn non-dues revenue. If the fields necessary to build out those segments aren’t clean, and up-to-date, such as membership status or exhibitor status, it will be nearly impossible for marketers to ensure they’re getting the right information, to the right people, at the right time. Additionally, if email addresses and first names aren’t up-to-date, there is little to no chance of engagement or sales from campaign efforts. 

Not only do associations use data for their marketing tools and CRMs, but they also use it to track information to help plan an approach within their industry – helping with membership drives, increasing member engagement, sales strategy and non-dues revenue generation.  

Exhibitor, Sponsorship, Advertiser and Job Posting Sales

At the core of an association’s non-dues revenue efforts are its sales teams. These teams use countless data points to identify sales opportunities, to aid in follow-up and close deals quickly. If the information on an account, a contact or a business opportunity is incorrect, it could easily lead to losing a sale or missing the chance altogether. With a clear and up-to-date view of the sales funnel, the team can view new opportunities from inception to “win” or “lost” by tracking on sales stages. This allows for the creation of a more efficient and effective sales process, which will dramatically aid in revenue generation. By not cleaning up a database and leaving an unnecessary number of opportunities open that will never close, sales teams can spend valuable time working unviable leads rather than streamlining efforts with only current opportunities.

Something of note that is unique to sales, regardless of what you’re selling,  is the fact that you’re selling to a person who is a representative of the goal company you’re looking to partner with. Losing that point of contact during a sale can be catastrophic. To combat this,mark them as a “former employee,” and figure out the new primary contact, and update it immediately. This will allow for cleaner marketing segments and will better aid in renewals.


At the core of every association are its members. Without them, the association would cease to exist. Therefore, having clean data about your membership, whether it is contacts or company memberships, is extremely important. Flagging member status to aid in renewal campaigns, discount programs for upcoming events, and the distribution of all member benefits should be the number one priority of all associations. Not keeping up-to-date data in this area alone could lead to issues with dues revenues, promotional campaigns, non-dues revenue efforts and member engagement tracking.  

Simply put, having a clean database makes essential business and department decisions easier.  

What Data Should Be Cleansed Regularly

Depending on your database and your chosen integrations, your association might have an innumerable amount of data. This could range from contact records and account records to survey responses and engagement data via your marketing automation platform or email tool. As previously mentioned, some of this is cleansable, while some is not. 

Data that should be regularly cleaned includes: 

• Contact data: Contact data are the traditional fields you have about a person. For associations, this is a unique set of data since a “contact” could mean a member, a past member, a registered job seeker, or even an employee at a company account that you’re looking to sell sponsorships, exhibit space, job postings and ads to. No one contact type is more important than the other; however, recognizing that they’re, in fact, different and both deserve cleansing is essential since the fields and information available on these records should be approached separately. For industry professionals — those who’re looking to engage in membership — keeping fields such as first name, last name, email address, mailing address, membership status and continuing education credit tracking clean is extremely important. Similarly, for company contacts, it is also important to keep this data clean; however, a larger set of opportunities arise here in the form of job titles, their role in the purchasing decision, and more. In most systems, contact data lives under account data for sales relationships and serves as a related set of data within a system. 

• Account or company data: As noted above, it is likely that your association has account information in your database to aid in earning non-dues revenue (NDR). Traditionally, when selling to accounts, there are unique fields that correlate to the account that should be reviewed and updated regularly, such as budget, industry, sub-industry, employee count, and otherwise. Additionally, there are other essential fields that must stay up to date for a variety of reasons, such as the company’s address, telephone number, most recent advertiser, exhibitor or sponsor status, and primary contacts. Lastly, in any organization that has sales opportunities, ownership of accounts in a database is one of the most important things to keep up to date to ensure a continuous opportunity for non-dues revenue generation and relationship building. 

• Sales data: Like contact data, sales data is typically related to an account and should be as up-to-date as possible. This data is what feeds an association’s “pipeline” in connection to sales of exhibitor space, sponsorships, advertising insertions by project, and more. It can be tracked in the form of individual opportunities and should always follow a clear, up-to-date funnel stage process. Fields to focus on include: the status of the opportunity, sales stage, primary contact at the account, value (if one exists) and probability of closing the sale. 

This data is crucial for the success of associations, but if left unkempt, it can become a nightmare. Alternatively, data that your system can capture — such as engagement interactions on your website, registration for an event or webinar, or survey data — it isn’t cleansable, but there is value in organizing this data to help with strategy and insights. 

How to Clean and Organize Your Database

When it comes to cleaning a database, there are two different routes to take: 1. Cleaning or appending the data you already have and 2. Filtering/organizing the data being added to your database. The easiest thing to do first with a database is to run it through a cleaning tool to filter out old or inactive contacts by using email addresses as unique identifiers. After using a cleaning tool to deadhead your database, it is recommended to follow a few other steps.

• Mark any inactive email addresses accordingly within the database: If your system doesn’t already have an “inactive” or “bounce back” flag in it, this addition should be a priority. Once created, use the information gleaned from the cleansing tool to mark any contact that is no longer viable as “inactive” and, if known, as a former employee under a job role area.

• Form common groups within your database: As noted earlier, these groups can be members or employees at companies you’re looking to partner with. Within these groups, fields are necessary to mark what actions they have done, such as if a member attended an event or if a company sponsored it, when they committed these actions, how much they have spent when advertising insertion or job posting expires to help ensure renewals and more. For example, creating a group of people in your database that have attended a webinar or event in the last 90 days would help show who some of the most active contacts in your database are. Utilizing these groups could help the association identify highly engaged non-members who are at a stage where they should be approached about membership.

• Populate your data fields with accurate information: Whether the correct data is manually uploaded to append current fields or coming in through a lead gen form, be sure to use each field for its intended purpose and its intended purpose only. Adding notes in certain sections can degrade the data, especially in common fields such as “First Name.” Identifying locations that will have the most up-to-date data outside of your database to help append it is essential in this process. For example, the association might have sent a very recent membership survey that requested all the contact’s information. This information should be considered the most up-to-date and should be used to append the master database. 

• Create “Flags” for your database: Flags can be used to signal that you are building relationships with the right audience in your database, as well as the wrong audience – such as former employees.

• Create contact information that is individual to the person: Are they active or inactive? Are they a registered job seeker? Have they ever attended an event? Individualizing each contact can help associations be more in tune with each buyer’s current stage.

• Create a standard process for updating and cleaning your data: This will save time and energy for your association in the long run. 

With today’s technology readily available, you can wrangle your data more efficiently to help your association’s profitability. 

It is crucial for associations, especially ones with a lean staff, to track pertinent information about their members and clients so they can be as efficient as possible. Work smarter, not harder, as the saying goes. With better and cleaner information, teams are able to make more educated decisions, target the right audiences, and increase revenue and member retention. So no matter what the purpose is, having a clean database is critical for the success of an association. Interested in chatting with Naylor about your data needs?

Reach out to the team at [email protected].

About The Author

Dani Mihalic is the director of marketing at Naylor Association Solutions. Reach her at [email protected].