The Life Changing Magic of Good Data Management

By Rabbi Dina London

Marie Kondo’s book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” is not about cleaning up your house, but your life. It’s all the rage on the bestseller lists and for a good reason. Her motto is – “if it doesn’t spark joy, toss it.” Now, we can’t expect our data to always bring us joy, but we can reap some great benefits from a clean and organized system.

Whether your synagogue uses a desktop Contact Relationship Management System (CRM), a cloud-based CRM, spreadsheets or a combination, properly maintaining your data is the key to having your data work for your organization.

Bring growth to your organization and increased member engagement by following these six tips for getting the most out of your CRM data.

  1. Appoint a Data Guru – As contact relationship management systems (CRMs) take on a larger role for congregations, the admin role is becoming critical for the smooth operation of any data-driven organization. To ensure that your data remains clean, organized and up-to-date, give one person the responsibility of keeper of the data. Your data guru should develop and maintain the rules and guidelines for system use and facilitate any major changes in procedure/process.
  2. Think crossdepartmentally. When you manage the ongoing setup and processes of an organization-wide system (or a system used by a few departments), you need to be able to understand and factor in all relevant parties’ roles and needs. Consider how each part of the system impacts each part of your organization. For instance, how does your school data fit into the data scheme of the entire organization? Can the fundraising committee use the school data in order to target parents for a particular campaign? Can the people who volunteered for High Holiday roles be approached for participation in the Chesed committee? Think wholistically instead of in terms of modules.
  3. Employ consistent processes. Small inconsistencies get larger over time and can make for messy and hard to interpret data. For instance, have a system for who is considered Adult A and Adult B in each household and have a naming convention for Households. There should also be a consistent process for adding new members, removing membership from cancels/drops, and for changing records when someone passes away. And, make sure to write it all down in a document that is accessible to the whole team.
  4. Take the time to develop good data collection and reporting. Historically, synagogues used a database as a giant rolodex. But, today’s databases can do so much more! The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation have developed a Data Playbook just for Jewish organizations to create their own data strategy. It outlines what data you should be collecting, best methods for collection, analysis/strategic goal recommendations, and how to use the data collected to tell compelling stories about your congregation.
  5. Prioritize efficiently. Because caring for a system can be a long-term project, it’s useful to be able to think small and in phases. Building up your system over time is the most effective. Big changes are hard for both you and your staff to incorporate all at once. Start small, test new functionality, learn, and then roll out. Set small milestones so you and the organization can feel the progress without overloading your capacity. In smaller phases, you can take measured risks. These add up to more measured wins that will fuel your motivation, rather than an all-or-nothing approach.
  6. Communicate effectively. Publish a guide to using your database which outlines things like naming conventions, new field creation, data deletion rules, etc. The document doesn’t have to be long or complicated, but it should be clear which staff is allowed to make changes in the database and what changes can only be made by the administrator. Any changes in procedure or new system functionality should be communicated in a clear and timely manner.

While Marie Kondo promises that her tidying method will keep you house perpetually clean, we all know that data maintenance is ongoing. But, who knows, if you follow our six tips, the process might just spark some joy in your workday!

Rabbi Dina London is Vice President/General Manager of Jvillage Network, a Jewish software and engagement company. She has worked in the world of Jewish communal service for almost two decades.