Is your association database full of duplicate records? Is your undeliverable mail bin overflowing with renewals and marketing messages that never reached the intended recipient? Does it take an army of editors to prepare a directory or similar list of members for public distribution? These are all signs that your database and your data entry team could benefit from use of formal data entry guidelines.
The heart and soul of all association management systems are the contact records for our members. So when considering a data integrity strategy, you must begin by considering how new data is entered into the software. For most of us working with US-based associations, the easiest way to get started is to adopt rules around contact information from a third-party source such as the United States Postal Service address guidelines. The full publication (Publication 28) can be used as a reference guide, but you’ll be most successful if you adopt a short set of rules that are easy to follow. Below is my simplified version of data entry rules based on their address standards:
- Spell out company names except Inc, LLC, LP, etc
- Do not use punctuation except the hyphen between the zip and the plus 4 code.
- Numeric street names should (almost always) not be spelled out (7th, not seventh)
- Abbreviate directionals before and after street names (123 S Main St NW)
- Abbreviate street suffixes (Ave, Blvd, Cir, Ct, Dr, Ln, Rd, St)
- Do not use the pound sign (#) as a secondary address unit designator, instead use standard abbreviations (Apt, Bldg, Fl, STE, Unit, Rm, Dept)
- Spell out city names (Fort Myer, not Ft. Myer)
- Use two letter abbreviations for US states
- Manage records in proper case and use uppercase formatting for mailing labels reports
- Add the plus 4 to US zip codes (use an integrated address verification service to automate this)