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5 Tips for Cleaning your CRM

Your organisation’s Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system is a powerful tool – it contains your organisational contacts, financial information, and an institutional history of engagement with your members and event attendees.

When this data becomes muddied with duplicates or incomplete information, it throws a spanner into your organisational processes, and makes your CRM less efficient and useful.  Eventually, you run the risk of neglecting to update your CRM entirely when it becomes too overwhelming, or obsolete. Here are 5 simple ways to clean up your organisation’s CRM and reduce the headache of data management.

1. Reviewing integrations

Data entered into your CRM likely comes from a number of external sources and processes, both digital and manual.  You may have automations in place to import information from your email mailing lists, ticketing provider and online shop.  Meanwhile, you’re likely relying on manual data entry to input information from spreadsheets, project trackers and meeting notes.

A CRM can act as the central hub for all these processes, but the quality of information stored in the system will only be as good as what has been passed along from the source, in the first instance.  Reviewing that your integrations are communicating properly and are set up correctly to automatically map from the data source to your CRM is a vital first step.  Doing so will help minimise errors and data duplication and provides an opportunity to create consistency across the data being imported from your different platforms.

While this sounds like an overwhelming process, ensuring that your automatic integrations are up to date and are accurately importing the correct information will save you time in the long run by reducing the need to spend time on manual processes to add data that wasn’t captured in the first instance, or to resolve duplication errors.

Undertaking this process also supports your organisation’s data protection compliance.  Having clearly established guidelines for how data fields are mapped reduces complexity of where the data about your audience is housed in your CRM, which is vital should a member of your audience wish to correct information in your system.

The Digital Culture Network’s Digital Architecture Framework pdf is a great resource to begin reviewing your organisation’s platforms and manual processes, and how they intersect, to ensure you’re capturing the right data.

2. Permissions

As your CRM contains sensitive financial and personal data, you should be regularly reviewing your permissions and security settings to ensure the right level of access is being provided to your current team.

Within your CRM, you have the option to tailor who has permissions to interact with data in certain ways. These include:

  • Create – who can create or add information, such as new records
  • Read – who can read or view existing information, such as donation amounts
  • Edit – who can edit or change existing information, such as to correct an error in a mailing address
  • Delete – who can delete or remove information, such as removing an outdated report  

These permissions are not applied indiscriminately.  While they can be given to everyone across your organisation, they can also be tailored by role (for example, your entire box office staff may have the same user permissions), or to individual users.

These permissions can also be applied to specific aspects of your CRM – such as certain record types, reports or fields. This provides a level of flexibility across your CRM, which is critically important if you are working with financial information, sensitive, or safeguarding information.

Thinking through the least amount of access an individual needs to continue to successfully do their job also promotes data integrity. Not all members of your team need full access to all aspects of your database. Reducing access to create new fields and records reduces the risk of duplication in your CRM. Limiting the access to read certain areas of your CRM protects sensitive personal information. Restricting permissions to edit or delete data reduces the risk of overwriting or losing critical business information.

The exact permission levels that different people need to work effectively will depend on the specific work and programming that you are undertaking, the audience groups you are working with and the depth of information you are collecting about them in your CRM.

3. Created and modified dates

Adding “created” and “last modified” date stamps to your records is a simple way to improve your reporting and data quality. These fields automatically timestamp the system when records are updated, which can help flag up outdated information or help identify patterns of data entry errors.

A “last modified” field is also a great tool for reporting on the quality of your CRM data, and see what records or reports are no longer up to date or utilised regularly.

Reports and dashboards are some of the most powerful tools in your CRM, allowing you to segment your audiences, report on your fundraising efforts and more. Identifying the tools your team refers to most frequently can help direct your efforts to make them as meaningful and efficient as possible. In addition, you can reduce duplicate and one-off reports, and any unused reports that are no longer serving your organisation.

With unused fields or reports, it’s always a good idea to hide them from view for a period of 3-6 months before deleting them permanently. This will ensure that you’re not unintentionally removing something that’s part of a less frequent business process, something that underpins the work of another team, or that feeds in elsewhere to your CRM.

4. Style guide

Implementing a data “style guide” for your organisation can likewise help reduce duplications and improve the overall quality of the information within your CRM.

A data style guide determines a standard way information should be entered into the CRM across your entire organisation.  At a fundamental level, this ensures consistent spelling and grammar, reducing opportunities for accidental duplication due to variable spelling choices (for example, abbreviations in addresses, such as using “Road” or “Rd” interchangeably). Developing a style guide is also a great opportunity to review the fields that are critical to your organisational processes and ensure your team is using them consistently. You can measure data completeness by reporting on the fields that are frequently left blank on records to highlight where there are gaps in your CRM. Once those gaps have been identified, you can review their original purpose and if they are still providing relevant information for your metrics. If not, it is important to determine if they house important historical information or value, or if they are duplicative fields that can be consolidated.

In addition to ensuring this style guide is reviewed regularly and adhered to by your team, these changes can be automated through your CRM. One simple but effective way to improve your data quality is to require users to populate the fields that are critical for your metrics and reporting.

You can also take this one step further by creating simple validation rules, which develop rules for the kinds of data that must be included in the field before it is allowed to be saved.  An example of a validation rule might be ensuring that the postcode is in the correct format if the billing address is in the United Kingdom.  Implementing automatic validation rules can reduce manual clean up later – making it easier to search for contacts within your CRM, reducing duplicate records and simplifying accounting and Gift Aid reporting.

CRMs have a wide variety of available field types – including currency, pick lists (or drop-down menus), percentages, numbers, dates and more. Selecting the most appropriate field type, rather than a default free text field, can greatly improve the consistency of your data and make things easier for your team.

For custom fields and sections of your CRM unique to your organisation, a style guide is a great opportunity to ensure that your team has adequate information about what should be captured in your CRM. A great way to do this is to ensure that custom fields are clearly labelled and described. This helps to reduce confusion between any similarly named fields in your CRM and ensures the purpose of those fields are clear to future employees working within your CRM.

5. Creating a schedule for review

Developing a regular schedule of data maintenance is a vital way to maintain the ongoing health of your CRM. This schedule should be sustainable for your organisation – whether that be every month, so there’s a smaller batch of data to review and troubleshoot, or as a slightly larger project on a quarterly basis. In addition to your CRM’s built-in tools for data quality, you can run through a checklist of the topics covered earlier in this article during each data review:

Review your integrations

Have you acquired any new pieces of software since your last review? Are your existing integrations still pulling in information as expected? Do you have any new business activities you need to track, and if so, how do you need to update the data mapping and documentation to reflect them?


Have you had any staffing changes you did not update at their time of hire/departure? Are you capturing any new sensitive information that require tailored permissions? Are there any existing permissions that are too restrictive or limiting?

 Created and modified dates

Looking at your last modified dates, do you have any outdated contacts that are no longer in communication with the organisation? If so, do you have a plan to reengage them, is the data no longer valid, or is it not being consistently updated? Do you have reports that are no longer in use? Should they be removed, or are they still of value?

 Style guide

Are there any new data types not reflected in the style guide that are creating confusion? Are any new custom fields and reports appropriately labelled to provide context and reduce duplication?

Streamlining your CRM may seem like a difficult task, but tackling these areas over time and building in routine maintenance will set your organisation on the path to steady improvement and success. The Digital Culture Network is here to support you through our 1-2-1 support if you’d like help applying these tips to your organisation.

What’s next?

The Digital Culture Network is here to support you and your organisation. Our Tech Champions can provide free 1-2-1 support to all creative and cultural organisations who are in receipt of, or eligible for, Arts Council England funding. If you need help or would like to chat with us about any of the advice we have covered above, please get in touchSign up to our newsletter and follow us on X @ace_dcn for the latest updates.

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