Checking for Duplicate Contacts On the Fly

How to keep your database free from duplicates without slowing down.

The demise of all donor and contact management systems (or CRMs) is the creeping addition of duplicate contacts.  There are many sources for duplicate entries, but every organization is bound to have a few that stand out.

Does your organization ever have:

  • Volunteers who do not check if a contact already exists in your database?
  • Multiple connection points with a supporter (e.g. volunteer, donor, events, etc.)?
  • Individuals from one household interacting with your organization separately?
  • Limited time causing you to rush through data entry?
  • Perfect keyboard skills (a.k.a. have you ever made a typo)?

However they get into your system, they erode and undermine the value of your donor data.  Aside from being just plain embarrassing, duplicate contacts cause more work, create unnecessary costs, and negatively affect your donors’ perception of how valuable they are to your organization.

The costs are simple and often small on the surface, but don’t forget about the lasting consequences. First is the extra printing, mailing, and labor costs when you are sending identical communications to donors. The more devastating cost is the impression you leave with the Donor.

How many of your supporters have ever thought:

  • “If they really valued me – why wouldn’t they see that they are sending me the same letter twice?”
  • “Are they really a good steward of my donation?”
  • “Why not just address the appeal to To Whom it May Concern?”

In the past, best practices revolved around reviewing your database at least annually, but those timelines always seem to be a little too flexible. When it happens, this process merges duplicates, verifies email and mailing addresses, and removes bouncing email addresses. Those are still valid steps and should continue to be done, but what are you doing before those audits?

Preemptive action should be your main focus. The best way to avoid the introduction of duplicates is to use a system that automatically alerts you at the time of entry of a possible duplicate. We like to call that “dynamic duplicate checking.” As you enter the last name of the contact you are adding, a strong database system will be scanning all your existing contacts and suggesting possible duplicates.  This does not slow down the entry of new contacts but can alert you quickly if a duplicate exists and allow you to take action.

Below is a screen shot showing the Dynamic Duplicate Checking in process.  As the user types in the first few letters of Smith, the system displays all the possible duplicates for that contact in the system.  This scan is checking both the main contact name and in the case of two name households, the second contact name.  Paying attention to these potential duplicates should greatly reduce the errors in your system.

live duplicate checker

It is important to periodically ask yourself… do you value each of your supporters? Are you a good steward of their donations?


If your organization is not using dynamic duplicate checking today, you should contact your DonorSnap representative to learn more about this feature.  If you are not currently using DonorSnap, you can learn more information by emailing Sales@DonorSnap.com or by participating in a live demo: Register for a live DonorSnap demo.

Making Fundraising and Donor Management Easy

Fundraising can be an exciting process. I’ve seen unimaginable amounts of money come in right before deadlines, which saved staff positions and helped to make incredible years. The celebration in those moments will be memories that I will never forget.

Unfortunately, the fine details of fundraising aren’t always so exciting. Reconnecting with people to remind them of pledged donations could be the equivalent to pulling teeth. Printing, stuffing, and mailing annual contribution statements is something many hope to pass off to interns or volunteers entirely. DonorSnap gets it and is here to help. Here is a glimpse at two important tools that will help you collect more donations and cut processing time down to practically zero.

Recurring Online Donations

  1. Build an online form integrated with your payment processor account, and give your supporters the ability to automate their giving.
  2. Schedule donations based on a time frame or without an end date entirely.
  3. Let the donor choose how to give by using either a credit/debit card or their bank account via ACH.

Recurring Donations Example Form

The tool is so easy to use that if you can use Microsoft Word or Google Docs, you can build a great looking online recurring donations form.

After you’ve created your recurring donation form, place a link to it on your website, in an email, or embed it right on your website. We take care of all the hosting details and send all of the donations scheduled through the form right into your database for review. All it takes is one form submission and your donors can be set up to continue their giving for a lifetime.

Email Contribution Statements

I can’t imagine the time and work it takes for a small nonprofit to process and mail out their end of the year contributions statements. It’s one thing when you have an entire development team taking on the challenge, but for some organizations, we’re talking days or weeks of nonstop administrative work. It is in these moments that you realize how wonderful technology and mail merge are. Now imagine incorporating email into that equation… you’ll probably feel the urge to give a sigh of relief. This is exactly what the email contribution statements can do for your organization.

Email Contribution Statements

DonorSnap has built this feature right into every database. No matter how many contacts you are tracking, you get to use email contribution statements. The same contribution statement generator that you have been using is what makes up the start of this tool.

Next, add in the ability to customize the email that your statements are attached to using merge fields from your database. This means you can personally address each person in your email. You can generate all of your statements and then email them with a single click. The savings in postage alone could be enough to pay for your DonorSnap subscription this year. If it costs $0.50 per letter (not including your time and paper cuts!) compared to the cost of an email (free!)… you can do the math.

If you’re not already using DonorSnap to manage all of your donors, members, and volunteers, feel free to check it out and see how it can save your organization time, money, and effort. Visit the getting started page to view one of our free overview webinars or to get signed up today.

Cleaning Up Your Database

Whether you are looking to transfer your data into a new database or tidy up the one you already have, here are a few quick fixes that will make a world of difference in your reports and mailings.

1. Standardize your fields. Limit the number of free form Text fields in your database. Use Single or Multi-Select and Date fields when possible to help maintain a clean database. Before transferring data from a Text field to a select style field, be sure to standardize your look-up options by eliminating all but the correct version. For example, when using a text field to track your Accounting Codes, it is possible to end up with numerous variations and even misspellings for the same fund (i.e. GEN, General, Gnrl, Generl). Running an accurate report with so many variations of the same fund is next to impossible.

2. Use proper capitalization and spacing…particularly in your name fields. When you send out mailings, you do not want your current donors or potential donors to feel like you are yelling at them (Dear DICK) or simply do not give a rip (Dear      jane   mae). If your data is in Excel, utilize the Trim and Proper functions to quickly eliminate extra spacing and adequately capitalize your names.

3. Merge Duplicates. Check for duplicate contact records based on Name, Address, Email and even Phone. Once you are confident you have a match on your hands, combine the duplicate records, including any attached donations, notes, etc. into one. This can often be a laborious process but it will yield more accurate reporting results and can often cut mailing costs.

Add a Donate Now Form to your Facebook Page Tabs

Recently we have discovered an even further value for DonorSnap Forms – Facebook Page Tabs. Creating a new Facebook page tab out of a DonorSnap Form is easy enough that any user can implement it. Whether you feel your organization could benefit from a “Donate Now” Facebook tab, a “Join our Mailing List” tab, an “Event Sign Up” tab, or more, follow the step by step guide below. In a matter of minutes, your Facebook page will have an integration with your DonorSnap database.

Donate Now Form as a Facebook Tab

Step One: Create your form

If you aren’t already using DonorSnap for your donor management, you’ll need to sign up for an account first. After you’re signed up, you’ll be ready to create any number of forms that you need. For more help on creating your forms, watch the online forms tutorial video here.

Step Two: Sign up to be a “Facebook Developer”

In order to create your own Facebook Page Tab App, you’ll need to be granted access to the developer area. Don’t worry if this sounds scary. Just keep following the directions and you’ll find it foolproof. You can also brag to your friends that you have developed a Facebook app for your organization.

To sign up, go to https://developers.facebook.com and click the button in the top right corner as shown below. Follow the prompts and verify your account.

Register as a Facebook Developer

Step Three: Create Your Facebook Tab App

After you are verified, you’ll need to go to https://developers.facebook.com/apps to start creating your tab app. Click the “+ Create New App” button at the top of the screen and continue through the prompts confirming that you accept the guidelines and that you are human.

Create a New Facebook Tab App

Next you’ll see the app creation form and your App ID on top. Make sure to note this number, because you’ll need it in the next step. Click the Page Tab check mark and fill out the form with your information. Make sure to fill out the following fields as directed:

  • App Domains: “donorsnap.com”
  • Sandbox Mode: Disabled (if you enable it, your tab will only be visible to administrators)
  • Page Tab Name: This can be whatever you would like your tab to be labeled on your Facebook page.
  • Page Tab URL: Paste your DonorSnap form link for the specific form that you would like to use.
  • Secure Page Tab URL: Use the same thing as the Page Tab URL
  • Page Tab Edit URL: Leave blank

Fill out the form to create your Donate Now Facebook tab

Step Four: Install the Facebook Page Tab App

Now that your Facebook Page Tab app is created, you’ll need to install it on your page. To install it, you’ll need to enter the following address into your browser, but make sure to replace “Your_App_ID” with the number that you wrote down in the step before.

https://www.facebook.com/dialog/pagetab?app_id=YOUR_APP_ID&next=https://www.facebook.com

If you entered the URL correctly, you should be presented with the following page. Select your organization’s Facebook page and click Add Page Tab.

Select your Facebook Page

Step Five: Your new Donate Now form is now a tab on your Facebook Page

That’s it. Now go to your Facebook page and see your new tab available to collect donations or whatever else it was designed for.

Your Donate Now Facebook tab is live

For more information, please refer to the Facebook Page Tab App tutorial. When you finish, let know how you’re using your form on your Facebook page by commenting below.

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