In a perfect world, your database would have absolutely no duplicate constituent records. However, in the real world, there is no such thing as a perfect database (or a perfect world, for that matter)! Your database is bound to have some duplicate records through everyday data entry or importing oversights. These mistakes can often be avoided if preventative measures are taken, but even when this is done, some duplicates will still get created (though in far fewer numbers!) and you should know what your options are to clean them up.
Luckily, Blackbaud’s The Raiser’s Edge 7 (RE) recognizes this is going to happen and has built-in functionality to allow you to clean up duplicate records.
The Merge feature in a constituent record allows you to either merge another constituent into the current record or merge from the current constituent record to another constituent record.
So, what is the best way to handle duplicates? It may depend on the volume of duplicates that your database has and how you encounter them.
For organizations that already know or suspect that they have a significant number of duplicate records cluttering up their database, we (Omatic) built a solution designed to address the challenge of managing duplicate records. In fact, I’ve written a separate blog to specifically cover that topic: A Breakdown of “The Super De-Duper” aka MergeOmatic.
If you randomly find a duplicate record when searching for a constituent, the quickest way to merge those records is by using the Merge function that is available on every constituent record. To use this function, simply perform the following steps:
- With the one of the duplicate constituent records open, select “Constituent” from the top menu bar and either select “Merge from <constituent name> into…” or “Merge a constituent into <constituent name>…”
- In this example, I am choosing the second option. Either option will then present you with the standard RE constituent search/open screen (below). Use this screen to locate the duplicate record you would like to merge with the current constituent record.
- Once you have chosen the duplicate record, you will then be given the “Merge Constituents” screen. Here, you will select the information you wish to bring over during the merge. The single arrow allows you to bring over only the information that is highlighted, while the double arrow allows you to bring over ALL the information. Be sure to check the option to “Delete source constituent” (bottom left) so you aren’t perpetuating the duplicate cycle!
Three important notes:
1) The source constituent cannot be open during the merge when this option is chosen or RE will return an error.
2) If you choose to delete the source constituent as part of the merge process, be sure you have chosen all of the information that needs to come from that record or it will be permanently lost! The only way to recover it will be to restore backup of your RE database.
3) If you do not have rights to delete constituent records in RE, then you will receive an error if the option to delete the source constituent is chosen. In this case, please speak to your RE Database Administrator about either getting temporary rights to delete constituents or about who you should give the list of records to be deleted post-merge.
Perhaps a lesser-known (but just as simple) way to merge constituents is through the “Merge Constituents” feature in RE: Admin. This option allows you to look up and merge two constituents using the same side-by-side information selection box that you see above, but without having either constituent open first. This option could be helpful if you discovered several duplicates and were working from a list or report to merge your duplicate constituents together.
The two primary limitations on merging records in RE are:
- The record types must be the same – you can’t merge organizations with individuals. If you come across a situation where this needs to be done, you must first convert the incorrect record type to the correct one. This option is also on the Constituent menu in a record. It is “Convert to <Organization/Individual>.
- Records must be merged on a 1:1 basis. You cannot merge three records into one record all at once – you would need to perform each merge separately.
Sometimes you will come across records that RE will require you to merge in a specific direction – into a record, as opposed to from that record. For example, I received the error message below when trying to merge “Robert C. Hernandez” (the source constituent in this case) into “Bob Hernandez”, in my sample RE database:
Additionally, when merging records, there might be instances where it’s better to merge into versus merge from. For example, if one record is more correct or complete than the other, you might wish to merge into that record instead of from that record.
If you want to see exactly how much duplication you may have in your database overall, you can run a “Duplicate Constituent Report” in RE: Admin. This report will identify all potential duplicate constituent records and create a static query of them for you. Once you address and correct the duplicates in your system, refer to our preventative measures to ensure your database stays as clean as possible. If you have a great deal of duplicates and think it could be the result of a past bulk data load gone awry, consider ImportOmatic the next time you need to import a significant amount of data into RE. The advanced constituent matching and duplicate checking functionality of IOM helps maintain data integrity and standardize information quickly and efficiently.
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Omatic Software is dedicated to integrating disparate systems and democratizing data access for today’s nonprofits. Founded in 2002, Omatic has worked with thousands of nonprofits globally to remove their data barriers by integrating systems and enabling nonprofit teams to leverage their donor data rather than be burdened by it. The Omatic team has one goal – unleashing the power of data to show a complete view of your donor, enabling data-driven decision making and opportunity creation for your organization.