With the release of the Raiser’s Edge 7 a decade ago came the introduction of many beautiful things, not the least of which is an oft overlooked, but powerful little check box in the bottom right corner of the Bio1 tab (and similarly on other record types to be discussed shortly) that says “Is Inactive”. In my 10 years of training and consulting with organizations who use the Raiser’s Edge, I found this to be a tool that is either ignored, misused, or abused.

Clients will ask me, “What is that box FOR anyway, Sandy? We’ve never used it.” .

The best way to begin to explore how “Inactive” should be used is to explain how it should NOT be used. It should not be used to track:

  • Returned mail/Incorrect address
  • Deceased constituents/donors/alumni
  • Lapsed memberships
  • Donors who have requested not to be contacted by mail or phone

We have other, better,  places in the Raiser’s Edge to track these types of information (check back here for more posts on those topics).

In geek speak, the definition of making any record Inactive in the Raiser’s Edge is that it “allows us to leave it in the database for historical and reporting purposes, but exclude it for data extraction purposes”. At this point, my clients’ eyes’ usually roll back in their heads, and they check out. In case that just happened to you, let’s put it in development terms. Essentially, we’re archiving them, so we don’t continue to include them in Mailings and Events, etc.

The definition of an Inactive Constituent varies widely among organization  types; for example, my colleges and universities would never make an Alum’s record Inactive, regardless of their giving history. For most other non-profits, it is characterized by a person or entity having been in the database for a certain period of time (based on date added) without having given a gift, or given within a period of time, usually the last 5-8 years. On a side note, I generally also recommend that my clients add a Notepad entry (with a type of Database Management or something of the like) to note the Inactive reason, date, and user name of the person who marked it Inactive.

The next question I most often hear is, “Well, why don’t we just delete them and get them out of  the database, Sandy?”. As a database purist, I am rarely a fan of deleting records, unless the information on them has been merged to another duplicate record or preserved somewhere else. For you non-database purists, here are some more practical reasons why we archive them, instead of deleting them.

If we delete them, we run the risk of losing:

  • historical data relating to Appeals and Actions ( what didn’t work for them)
  • bad historical information (we don’t want to risk re-entering the same bad information again!)
  • the ability to do send Appeals (yes, some of my clever clients will solicit folks who haven’t given in the last X number of years, not just LYBUNTs).

It is worthy to note that Campaign, Fund, and Appeal records can also be marked Inactive when they are completed (they can’t be deleted if there are Gifts associated with them.) This can go a long way toward preserving the sanity of your Gift entry staff.

For all of these record types, if we archive them instead by marking them Inactive, we can always choose to include or exclude them anytime we’re pulling information out of the Raiser’s Edge via Mail, Export, or Reports.

I like having choices; don’t you? I’d LOVE to hear how your organization uses this powerful tool! Drop me a line!