This article will review the most common mistakes that cause an import to have an error and how you can avoid them.

For a downloadable version of our import template, please click here.

If you're still cleaning up your file, then check out our article on how to make your file ready for import. 

1. Populate the contact's first name

A contact can't be imported without a first name.

If you have incomplete contact information (maybe you only have an email address but no first name or you're missing first names but have last names) don't worry, you can still import these records. 

Do you have an email address but no first name? Here's what you can do: 

  • Paste the email address in the first name field. 

Do you have a last name but no first name? Here are the options:

  • Use the last name in the first name field and leave the last name field blank. 

  • Use the email address in the first name field and maintain the last name. 

  • Use Anonymous in the first name field and maintain the last name. 

Note: If you decide to use Anonymous as the first name for contact records you don't have first names for make sure you differentiate any contacts that might share a last name so the system won't flag them as duplicates. For example, you can take the prefix of their email and use that as the last name with first name as Anonymous.

2. Format your donation date

If your file contains donations  you must include a date to each donation so the system knows when it was received. The date should always be formatted:

To format this date in an Excel spreadsheet, simply use the Number Formatting Tool in Excel and set this date format under the Custom section when editing the cell/column. When using a formatting feature like this, you should save your file as an Excel document (.xls or .xlsx)  not a .csv so the formatting is displayed properly.

3. Avoid duplicates

The system will flag potential duplicates that you will need to fix if any of your contact records any of the following matching information: 

  • Full Name

  • Physical Address

  • Phone Number 

(Note: if someone has a different full name, different phone number but the same physical address, the system will mark them as duplicates that you will need to fix. In many instances, this is because they live in the same home. Here's more about how households are tracked in your donor management system. 

Now, here's how you can avoid duplicates when preparing for your import: 

  • You can review the four important contact information fields in Excel to ensure any potential duplicates are either resolved before the import or matching perfectly so they will be auto-merged during the import.  One by one, filter the four columns (name, physical address, phone number) to quickly see if you have more than one record that contains any identical information. Remember: any records that contain identical information in ANY of these three fields will be flagged as a potential duplicate and that will need to be resolved once the import is in your system.  

  • You can attach a unique ID to each record to avoid duplicates being flagged. Many systems will provide you with an unique ID when you export from that system. You can then map this field to "External ID" during the import mapping process to avoid duplicates being created. If you do not have an ID, you can always create one. A nifty way to do this is to combine the "First Name" and "Last Name" field with no spaces. This can act as an ID and lower the possibility of seeing duplicates.

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