Nonprofit Partner Blog

Data Rot: How it Differs from Other Data Problems

We discussed in the last data rot series post, What is Data Rot? – And Why You Should Care?, that data rot stems from the world changing around your database and your database not knowing about these changes. Aside from data rot issues, your database may be acting as a warehouse for a variety of other data issues. Data entry errors, typos, mislabeling, and transcription errors are some of the most common types of data issues related to human error. Data issues also may stem from missing information, malformatted data, or file format incompatibility during imports. Data rot contributes to bounced emails, wrong phone numbers, returned mail, and missed opportunities similar to the consequences of data rot, but these consequences may also occur from other data issues as explained below.

Really Rotten: Missed Opportunities

Data rot is sometimes responsible for a wrong phone number or bounced email. In an instance of data rot, the individual could have simply changed places of employment or changed their phone number or email address. In an instance of a different type of data problem, a wrong phone number or bounced email could be caused by a typo made by the individual manually inputting the contact information into the database or a simple transcription error. In both instances, the issues prevent your organization from following up with a prospect or donor.

In an instance of data rot, a missed opportunity or returned mail could simply be due to the individual moving or because your donor database does not contain up-to-date data. Other data issues can also be responsible for lost opportunities and costly returned mail. The post office requires addresses to be correct and in a particular format, but if you have malformatted data, the mail will not be delivered. Missing information can occur due to a person mislabeling and inputting the correct contact information in the wrong place which is not data rot, but rather a data issue resulting from human error. While many data issues may have a similar consequence as a data rot issue, you can see how the data problems differ.

Data problems are going to occur, and it’s important to understand how data rot differs from those other types of data problems. Data rot occurs as a result of the changing world, but there are a variety of other data issues that may be a result of organizations having individuals manually input data into their database. Some charities and nonprofit organizations experience data issues from having professionals importing constituents into their constituent database from online forms, donation platforms, donor lead purchases, or various marketing avenues. The lack of quality data in a database limits the profitability of a nonprofit organization’s operation with marketing campaigns, donor relations, fundraisers, and donor analysis. The data rot and other data issues in your database limit your ability to reach and understand your constituents and donors. So, once you have determined your database is full of rot, what do you do about it? In the next article of the data rot series; we will discuss how to combat data rot.

Ben Ashpole, Updentity

About the Author: Benjamin C. Ashpole is CEO of, a platform that appends names, email addresses, phone numbers, mailing addresses, demographic information, and more to keep databases up-to-date. He is an expert in data quality, data-mining, and targeted lead generation. Ben comes from educational and corporate backgrounds in systems integration and artificial intelligence.