To ensure data integrity, there are two very important reports you should run: the Account Biography report and the Gift Detail report. The Account Biography report quickly identifies data entry or coding errors, and shows all the critical basics of any account, including Name, Address, Source, and Group. You can change the criteria to identify different account segments, but you should run this report for accounts added during a specific time period, such as each week or month. You would consult the Gift Detail report to be sure that the funds, appeals, and campaigns were filled in, that the gift amounts were entered in correctly, etc. In addition to running daily reports, you must thoroughly search for accounts before adding new ones. But simply typing in the last name and seeing no results returned does not necessarily mean that the account is not already there. You should search in several ways, including First Name, Street Address, and Zip Code. You should also use wildcards instead of relying on exact searches, in case an entry was mistyped when searching or the existing account has a misspelling.
You need to manage your data without letting it manage you. One important piece of advice is to be wary of adding new codes, since adding them incorrectly or unnecessarily is one of the biggest causes of bad data. Take particular care with Appeals Codes, since you may have 10 to 300 appeals a year, depending on your size. It's a good idea to add all the new appeals you need for the coming year at the beginning of the year. In general, develop a plan for codes and data entry procedures so that employees don't guess if they don't know how or what to enter.
When it comes to data integrity and the number of employees involved, less is more. The less people modifying the data, the less room there is for error. It's a good idea to limit user rights to modify and—more important—delete data. In fact, very few users should have full access to your data—ideally only one user. Before establishing security for your users, have policies in place for how data should be entered and who the contact person is in case there are questions. And if a policy changes, make sure all pertinent users are informed.