April 20, 2023

Erik Pfalzer

3 min read

Your organization’s data is the key to deepening donor relations, sparking new connections, and significantly increasing contributions. When used to its full potential, data can be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to an organization.

So how do you squeeze every penny out of your data? Simple: start with a properly managed and maintained database. Except there’s one caveat—this isn’t so simple.

Data management is a struggle across the board, and studies show that data professionals lose 30% of their time every week going on wild goose chases looking for data.

The recipe to resolve these headaches, save more time (and money), and create a high-quality and sustainable data management system is SPICE: Scalable, Purposeful, Inclusive, Consistent, and Extensible.

SPICE works for organizations of all sizes and maturity levels. Think of it this way: you’re baking muffins and whether you’re making a half-dozen for breakfast or dozens upon dozens for your kid’s bake sale, the ingredients, ratios, and process are the same: measure ingredients, mix together, fold in chocolate chips (of course), and bake.

Here’s how you can use SPICE to build a high-performing data management system:

  • Scalable: Store your data in a place that can grow with your organization without breaking the bank. From the size of your current data sets to the type of information you collect to various ways to extract data, look for data storage solutions that offer flexibility and room to expand.

  • Purposeful: Avoid shortcuts and skimping on data points. Each hour spent doing upfront work could save five hours down the road. Take the time now to split full names into individual fields, add campaign metrics such as costs and total quantity mailed, and properly tag key data points. Future you will thank you!

  • Inclusive: Include more data points than you think you need. Go beyond metadata and include a place to store emails, phone numbers, and addresses as well as mobile numbers and work emails. While some data points like indicating which donors received a specific campaign might not seem important for day-to-day operations, it could be the difference between a great model or a so-so model when aggregated.

  • Consistent: Store data in the same format in the same fields. Create a guide or template with examples and explanations that can be easily shared and understood by anyone responsible for inputting data. This will avoid heaps of frustration and lost time down the line when searching for data points and extracting data for analysis.

  • Extensible: There’s no one-size-fits-all and no do-it-all product when it comes to database management. Look for solutions that can seamlessly connect to other systems and allow you to run various processes such as data enhancements for major giving and modeling directly into your database.

As you look to add some SPICE to your data, start where you are but with an eye for the future. In a world of growing and more complex data, keeping basic premises such as SPICE in mind will go a long way to ensure that your data helps—not hinders—your fundraising efforts.

Looking for more information?

For additional information, ideas, or assistance with your data management, fundraising strategy, contact us at