Follow Import Laws to Avoid Trouble

If you’ve never done it, importing data into a database can be an intimidating task. But if you plan your work ahead of time and follow a few basic rules, it can be a huge time-saver and an important way to keep your database current and clean.

So here are a few import ‘laws’ you should build into your procedures right from the start:

  1. Always, always have a recent and valid database backup in place before you begin any import. There is no better insurance against missing or overwritten data than your ability to restore a backup and return to square one.
  2. Make sure that a unique ID number is part of the source data and then include it in the data you import. Find a designated field to store this number in and use it to maintain an ongoing connection between the destination (your donor management system) and the source
    For example, if you’re importing recent graduates from your admissions software into ResultsPlus, make sure to include their student identification number from the original program. Store the Student ID as part of the new ResultsPlus record to make updates in the future. ResultsPlus offers three fields to hold just this type of data:  Key1, Key2, and ReferenceKey.
  3. Before importing data into a given field, make sure it is ready and available to accept the data you will be placing there. Your imported data will overwrite any existing data, so make sure the fields are empty. A simple query should do the trick:  Table.FieldName Is Not Null. This will find any records that already have data in that field.
  4. Make sure that the data you are importing is mapped to a field formatted to hold that type of data. In other words, don’t import gift values into a field formatted to hold dates or you will get unexpected results.
  5. If you’re updating existing constituent records, make sure to include the unique ID numbers in your query when you originally qualify and export the data. Think of it like the return address on a letter you send – it will help you get the data ‘back home’ after it’s been updated.
    This is particularly important with addresses, since ResultsPlus allows multiple addresses for constituents. Make sure you qualify all addresses (not just the primary ones) and that you export both the FolderID and the AddressID with the constituent names.
  6. Before performing your full import, run a test import with just a few sample records. Consider it a dress rehearsal to help you get a feel for the import process without making significant changes to your database. Use a sample size that is no larger than necessary – limit to the number of records you can manually fix if necessary. It can also help to flush out problems with your source data and import template prior to importing the entire file of data.

If importing data feels like more than you want to tackle, remember also that you can purchase custom import services from ResultsPlus. Our data services professionals can complete imports in just a few hours, which could be hours you spend serving constituents or talking to major donors. Call the support line (800-222-4096) or send email for more information.