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How Nonprofits Cleanse Data and Prevent Data Duplication

March 11, 2022

From maintaining client records and program data to reporting on outcomes, many nonprofits rely heavily on software to organize and aggregate data.

But even with the right software solution in place, data mistakes can still happen. Sometimes data slips are due to incomplete entries. In other cases, client records are duplicated. Deduplicating these copies protects data integrity and security, reduces storage capacity needs, and improves data accuracy.

Clean, accurate data is also critical to securing and sustaining funding. Human services organizations that rely on public funding streams often need to deliver regular reports to their funding agencies. These reports help the government evaluate systematic outcomes across a wider geographical area or care sector, and make data-informed decisions about where taxpayers’ dollars should be spent.

Thankfully, with a few key steps, human services agencies can cleanse their data and prevent duplicates down the road.

What is data duplication?

First and foremost – data duplication happens. In human services organizations, even careful record-keeping can’t prevent digital client records from being copied or entered incorrectly from time to time. This is especially true if your nonprofit operates on a Continuum of Care with multiple points of entry. Here are some common sources of data duplication that can be avoided:

Sources of Exact Duplicates (I.e., John Doe and John Doe)

Exact duplicates occur when a client or project name is coded the exact same way more than once, often with disparate, critical information (think: contact information, case manager notes, team-based records, and care plan progress) stored beyond the next click.

Sources of Non-Exact Duplicates (I.e., John Doe and Johnathon G. Doe)

Non-exact duplicates occur when the data value means the same thing, but isn’t inputted identically. Sometimes simple data matching techniques can’t identify these duplicates, rendering them non-matches.

Mismatched Criteria (I.e., John Doe – Sally’s Father, John Doe – Client)

Case managers working with families on complex cases may generate individual case entries for each family member. Over time, duplicated case logs for the same person may be inputted. Sometimes these duplicates are created due to a new context for the client encounter, or due to secure file-sharing among coordinated care team members.

All of these forms of data duplicates can be caused by software merges, data backups, or simply user error.

What are the costs of data duplication?

Data duplication in human services can hinder financial growth, increase organizational risk, and stall productivity. Here are some data duplication pitfalls nonprofits should avoid:

1. Loss of efficiency and wasted time. For case managers in human services, every minute counts. They don’t have time to spare combing through duplicated client records only to retrieve an outdated log. Preventing data duplicates helps nonprofits streamline operations and ensure team members have access to the most up-to-date files to streamline service delivery, billing, and reporting.

2. Costly labor to correct and cleanse data. When left unchecked, data mistakes can be expensive to fix. Adding administrative positions or specialized software to manually cleanse records may not be tenable investments for nonprofits looking to minimize their overhead costs.

3. Potential for inaccurate reporting. Data integrity and reporting are paramount for human services reporting. Agencies are usually required to send repeated reports to federal, state, or national association funding sources for rigorous evaluation before receiving additional dollars. Similarly, donors and advisory board members expect impeccable books and regular reporting validating the effect of their private investment in the community. Duplicated data cloud reporting can skew key metrics of success, negatively influencing an organization’s decision-making and financial security.

4. Increased potential for security breaches with sensitive data. Human services agencies are entrusted with private, sensitive data that needs proper protection. When sensitive information is copied among multiple platforms or within the same system, it creates more opportunities for unintended data leakages.

Thankfully, with proper data hygiene and an effective software solution, these common costs associated with data duplication can be avoided entirely.

Data cleansing and deduplication

Every human services organization should have a data hygiene strategy to reduce data duplications and other common data errors. Some software solutions – like CaseWorthy – save administrators time searching for and correcting duplicates.

Clean Data Integration. CaseWorthy seamlessly integrates multiple internal and external team records into a centralized cloud-based hub, reducing the odds of client records being duplicated in multiple systems.

Enhanced Logic. CaseWorthy automatically combs existing records and uses enhanced algorithms to identify and flag duplicates.

Streamline everyday processes and data management with CaseWorthy.

CaseWorthy’s customizable platform easily facilitates reporting, day-to-day workflows, case logging, and data management.

Schedule a demo to learn more