Identity Resolution For Best Match Rates & Unique Pre-Built Profiles

identity resolution

As the proliferation of data continues, identity resolution or entity resolution becomes a topic of greater importance. You may be wondering how such a specific technicality may affect your business. Our in-house expert, Glen Ireland actually answers that question and more on our podcast. Let’s begin with the basics.

Listen to the full podcast here:

What is Identity Resolution?

Identity resolution is the process of matching data from multiple sources with one entity. It can also be referred to more generally as entity
resolution. Basically, when several data points are matched with a person and the association is confirmed, it is identity resolution.

For example, let’s say there’s a contact named Eric Smith in your database. You may find out from another data source that Eric Smith has a net worth of $10M. The problem is that there could be ten different people with the name Eric Smith among your contacts. Identity resolution comes in when you need to find the right one to associate the net worth with.

Businesses Can Also Face Identity Loss

Not only does entity resolution affect people, but it also affects organizations. Even if your organization deals with other businesses, identity resolution could become important for you.

For example, your system may have stored IBM as IBM, International Business Machine, and as IBM Corp. When you add new data, you may add each data point to a different entity. In this case, your data will not be able to paint a holistic picture of the entity for you.

In these instances, computers cannot make judgment calls. Human intervention may be needed. Of course, when you try to achieve entity resolution at scale, you can do this through algorithms.

Entity Resolution & Wealth Data Analytics

When it comes to your wealth data analytics, identity resolution becomes paramount. Let’s consider the case of WealthEngine. Identity resolution enables us to pre-form profiles about every adult in the US. These pre-
formed profiles allow WealthEngine to offer solutions like WE Prospect, and WE Analyze.

Furthermore, with entity resolution, you can perform a nationwide quick search. This means you can look up any individual adult in the US or create segments in the WealthEngine database.

Identity resolution lets WealthEngine procure data from several different data sources. So, each data source has its own unique identifier for each person. WealthEngine can then match all these data sources through entity resolution. This helps us build pre-formed profiles and to update and enrich them over time.

WealthEngine invests millions in acquiring high-quality data from different sources. This means you can learn more and more about Eric Smith on your contacts list with WealthEngine. This includes demographics, lifestyle, behavior, interests, and affinities. Our algorithms and data science help make sure that you have up to date and extensive information to work with.

Identity Resolution to Match Vendor & Customer Data

So, how do you match data from different sources and vendors? Although this is a complex process, two basic techniques can be used. For instance, the main attributes we use to match entities are their name and primary address.

A best practice for identity resolution is standardizing the format for names. To illustrate, turn nicknames into formal names, remove any punctuation from names, etc. You may also want to standardize addresses by reformatting them. The format should match deliverable USPS addresses. Those are two basic things that can be done to enable entity resolution.

There are also other sophisticated techniques to accommodate misspellings. We use some of these advanced practices at WealthEngine. For example, a vendor might send a record with a name that’s missing one character. Similarly, there could be a street name that’s missing two characters. In these instances, we use something called edit distance algorithms. We may also use this and similar techniques to accommodate misspellings in first names, last names, or street names when ingesting vendor data.

Advanced Technology for Higher Match Rates

The above were general best practices, but the process becomes complex at scale. Furthermore, as you ingest data from more sources, you need more sophisticated data science to ensure accuracy. WealthEngine’s industry-leading technology means that our clients can enjoy up to 90% match rates.

In fact, clients have confirmed that other analytics solutions offer about 30-60% while WealthEngine can get them to 90%. This is because WealthEngine has spent 20 years coming up with sophisticated techniques beyond the basics.  For example, we can also use attributes like spouse name or business name to increase that metric.

This is important because both husband and wife can make a decision on something. If you’re targeting a specific individual, you may want to bear in mind that the spouse might actually be the decision-maker. These could be decisions about a donation, about buying a particular product, or using a certain financial services firm. With this being the case, it’s very important to have identity resolution be as accurate as possible.

What Happens When There Is No Match

If a record from a vendor cannot be matched to a profile, WealthEngine has to decide whether or not to create a new profile. If the record coming in from the vendor is complete enough, and it seems like a person that is not already in the database, we create a new profile. For instance, there are something like 10,000 17-year-olds turning 18 every day. They would all be eligible for being loaded into the WealthEngine database.

In other situations, a customer record may match multiple profiles. In this instance of entity resolution, let’s say you add some extra pieces of information to WealthEngine. This may cause one customer record to match multiple WealthEngine profiles. Then, WealthEngine appends information from all matching profiles to the customer record to enrich it as much as possible.

Does this work?

Yes, because  WealthEngine sometimes has more than one profile per person. The reason behind this is that we want to shy away from over-merging. This means, you never want to use identity resolution to combine two different people.  WealthEngine tends to err on the side of what’s called under-merging, where one person is represented by multiple profiles in the WealthEngine database. In fact, competing solutions may have greater inaccuracy because of this.

How You Can Benefit From Identity Resolution

Identity resolution ultimately increases the accuracy of information for customers. This means you can simply search for a person and see all their information compiled into a profile. These profiles are built using data from several different sources. Thus, this presents itself as a convenience for you.

Secondly, having reliable entity resolution in place means you get higher match rates. For instance, WealthEngine match rates are very high, at about 90%. So, when you find out that Eric Smith’s net worth is $10M, you can be sure that it is the right person.

Furthermore, you can keep on enriching your contacts’ profiles with more information. With WealthEngine, the enrichment is automated in most cases. There is a small percentage of data that WealthEngine cannot match. However, with a feature called Find More in WealthEngine9, even this has a solution.

If your customer record does not match a WealthEngine profile, we will still store that record in your My Profiles tab. You can then click into the profile and do a manual identity resolution. First, use Quick Search to find what you believe is a match. Then use Find More to merge it into the uploaded record. Doing this, you can increase the match rate up to 100%. No other wealth intelligence solution can help you do this.

Increase Your Match Rate to 100% Starting Today

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Making a list, checking it twice


Gearing up for the end-of-year campaigns? Let’s talk about your list.
As the fall season kicks into high gear, most nonprofits are also gearing up for the best time to reach out to donors for those holiday and year-end campaigns. On average, most nonprofits receive at least 40% of their annual donations during this time and for some, that percentage is nearly 70%.
Getting properly prepared to maximize year-end fundraising efforts and reach donors is the first step and that starts with good data. According to direct marketing experts, there are three critical elements to a direct mail or email appeal: the list, the design and the copy. The quality of a list can make or break a campaign. It is the biggest and most important investment in your campaign. Caring for a list should be a top priority when it comes to fundraising. But how do you care for a list?
Good question. On a regular basis, whether you choose to do it annually, quarterly or more often, audit the database to be sure data is being entered consistently and accurately. A few simple questions about the data can get you started in the right direction. Are salutation fields being populated properly? Is giving history correct and up-to-date? Are returned mail and email bounce backs noted and updated where possible? You might even consider running a spell check on the entire file. Based on the outcome, consider creating an internal “data stylebook” – for more, download our Data-Driven Annual Campaign workbook here.
Next, when was the last time you ran a National Change of Address (NCOA) on your mailing list? Did you know WE can help with that? With our WE Clean product, you’ll not only get information on the 10-20% of your constituents who have moved in a given year, but email addresses, phone number and a deceased append. The price is literally pennies per record – and, you’ll be saving a lot of additional money on returned mail and print overages.
To help get you started on getting your list ready, take our Data Readiness Challenge by downloading this free data hygiene checklist.
If you want more information on data appends, contact WealthEngine today.

The Data-Driven Annual Fund Part 1: The Building Blocks


Annual funds are as different and varied as the organizations that run them. From the large-scale direct marketing solicitation of tens of thousands of prospects to the targeted email blast to a few hundred regular donors, annual giving remains the backbone of a comprehensive fundraising strategy and, in many cases, forms the solid base of the fundraising donor pyramid.

Because of the many differences and variations we developed The Data-Driven Annual Fund, a workbook that focuses on data understanding and use; strategies for segmentation, solicitation and stewardship of donors and prospects; and measuring and analyzing fundraising ROI and other key metrics.

Part 1: The Building Blocks focuses on building a strong base for the annual fund and setting the protocols that will drive the entire process. Specific topics include conducting a data audit, data hygiene and segmentation, and developing an annual fund plan.

Download The Data-Driven Annual Fund Part 1: The Building Blocks for information and resources on building a strong base for your organization’s annual fund.

The Power of a Clean Database


Everyone struggles to keep their donor database up to date. Databases become disorganized for a multitude of reasons – time constraints, lack of understanding, inconsistent data entry, staff turnover; the list goes on and on.  Whatever your reason, a clean, accurate database is essential to meeting your fundraising goals.

How is your database?

If your data is overrun with duplicates, bad addresses and old contacts, it’s time to clean-up.  Not only will you increase your revenue, you’ll save time and money in the long run.  To start, evaluate your objectives.  What do you want to do with your data?  What are your annual fund goals?

Once you have your objectives in place, assess your data.  Take a look at your donors – are they segmented into lists?  Not even the most enthusiastic of followers wants to see everything that comes out of your organization – each donor and prospect is an individual and has individual interests and passions.  What types of campaigns work best with which donors?  Some of the people in your database are hot prospects.  Has someone in your organization spoken to them recently or heard them speak at a conference – these details need to be included in each donor’s notes.  What better way to touch someone directly then to reference something they said.  Ask yourself: where does our database lack information, what are our data strengths and weaknesses?

Optimistically, you have specific types of donors associated within specialized lists and detailed notes about each donor’s interests.  And you’re scrubbing your data yearly.  If this isn’t your case – that’s okay – there are resources to help.  The first step in cleaning your data is purely to make the commitment to clean your data. But in order to successfully meet your goals, you do need to get down to business. Check out our Five Tips for Maintaining Your Data.

More on Getting the Most From Your Data

For more information on taking your annual fund to the next level, including conducting a data audit, data hygiene and segmentation, and developing an annual fund plan, download The Data-Driven Annual Fund Part 1: The Building Blocks. It focuses on building a strong base for the annual fund and setting the protocols that will drive the entire process.

For ideas on how to forecast annual giving goals, develop meaningful metrics, and develop strategies to enhance giving, check out WealthEngine’s workbook Growing Individual Gifts: An Analytical Approach to Data-Driven Success.  

Building an Integrated Development Team


Fund development programs span a wide range of activities and competencies. As advances in areas such as technology, data analytics, business intelligence, and market research continue to drive increasing sophistication in the fundraising sphere, it becomes increasingly difficult, yet important, to coordinate and integrate the various players and activities.

As individual staff members become specialized in one unit or another within fund development teams (research, fundraising, marketing and communications, or information services), they can become distanced or even disconnected from the bigger picture. This leads to a lack of understanding of the expertise and value other units and personnel bring to the table. Less understanding, and less connectivity, means fewer opportunities for teamwork, resulting in less synergy and creativity.

While sophistication and specialization are both admirable and necessary as programs grow, it is wise to be mindful of some of the hazards they can portend. Good leaders will be aware of how to maintain a sense of team and teamwork as the organization grows and will manage the changes in a positive and healthy manner.

6 Ways to Build an Integrated Team

The following are six ways development leaders can build and maintain effective, integrated teams. Enacting these principles within fund development teams will provide organizations more success and stability, and staff more satisfaction, opportunities for creativity and professional and personal growth.

  1. Recognize the continued need for cross functional teams and workgroups
    As development departments become more specialized, it is important for leadership to. provide members of all units the opportunity to learn about other specialized development functions and to forge relationships with those working in different areas. Building relationships — and trust — with other members of the broader department leads to increased cross-pollination of ideas and perspectives. Creative and outside-the-box ideas and solutions will result.
  2. Create and provide shared goals for all units
    This reminds all units within the development department the reminder they are an important piece of the whole working toward a common good. Each unit within the department should always be aware of the way in which they connect to the whole. One of the clearest forms of communication leadership can use is the goals and objectives they set forth.
  3. Acknowledge and include all units in celebrations of success
    This is an outward acknowledgement of the value contributed by each unit. For example, while major gifts brought in the $1MM gift, Information Services correctly captured their information, prospect research quantified the potential, and marketing engaged the prospect before fundraising ever became involved. Development is a team sport, and celebrating the wins together builds a winning team.
  4. Provide development personnel with internal and external educational opportunities
    This creates situations where personnel need to understand tangential aspects of their jobs, and create greater understanding of colleagues’ roles. Increased understanding leads to better communication and more “sticky” relationships within the department.  Individuals will value the opportunities for professional growth, and may also feel more content within their working environment.
  5. Encourage personnel to try different development roles
    Creating opportunities for movement between units can lead to increased job satisfaction.  Open lines of communication, cross-educational opportunities, cross-training and mentorships all contribute to a culture of openness and transparency that will breed loyalty and longevity.
  6. Meet conflicts head on and resolve them appropriately
    Leaders who shy away from conflict will find that they are inhibiting growth and creativity. By not recognizing the value of differences of opinion and unique ways of thinking, they are quashing opportunities for innovation. Leaders should value conflict as a healthy way to explore problems and challenges in a deeper way and to encourage creative and collaborative outcomes.

Building a collaborative and cohesive development team may seem like a daunting task, but with enough effort, you can guide your organization towards stability and success. For more information about development strategies, register for our webinar with Sierra Club: A Wealth of Data: Major Donor Fundraising & Data-Driven Segmentation.

Five Tips for Maintaining Your Data


Data is only your most important asset (after people, of course!) if it’s clean, consistent, accurate and complete.  If data is not maintained to these standards, any reporting or analytics done on top of it will be less than reliable.  We offer five tips below for keeping your data in top-notch condition so it forms a stable and reliable foundation for your fundraising and decision-making success.

  1. Know what data you intend to collect and enter into your DMS or CRM  This is particularly relevant as you recognize new data points that you want to collect, such as cell phone numbers, marital status, or date of birth.  These new data points should be tied to organizational goals.  For instance, if you have a goal to start a planned giving program, and have little DOB or age data, your strategy should include the collection of DOB’s.  You may need to edit all response mechanisms used in direct response and all web forms used in online engagement to include DOB as an optional or required field.  You may also want to budget for a DOB overlay to get more of this data populated as quickly as possible.  Whatever your tactics, specify in a data policies, procedures and style manual how the data should be entered, e.g., 3-14-72 or March 14, 1972.
  2. Limit access to your database to a need-only basis
    Your database should only be accessed by people who need to access it in order to do their job, both for security purposes and to preserve database integrity. Limit the ability to edit data to the few who will be held accountable for its accuracy.  All those with editing capability should be periodically trained in data entry procedures, and should have access to data policies, procedures and style manuals.
  3. Back up your DMS on a regular basis
    Your DMS should be backed up on a regular basis (preferably nightly) and the backup routines must be rigorous and tested periodically.  Every organization should test the restoration of their data from their backup to be absolutely sure the system is operating successfully and will serve them when needed.
  4. Audit your data periodically to test for:
    1. Completeness: Do all records contain the primary and essential information?  How many are un-solicitable for bad addresses? Is this number growing or shrinking?
    2. Consistency: Are data points entered in the same format?  Are they entered in the same fields in each record?  Are there spelling errors?
    3. Accuracy: Is the information included in each record correct? Are there spelling errors?
      Periodic audits will reveal where training needs to be implemented or improved, where resources need to be deployed to combat inconsistent or missing data and will provide key measures against which to measure progress.
  5. Codify data appropriately to ensure that it is useful
    Having thoughtful codes that can be used to segment and sub-segment the constituent population is essential to make the information you are collecting both reportable and queryable.  Having too few codes will prevent you from gleaning all the insight the data has to share; having too many codes will make the results of any analysis too granular and therefore unactionable.

Data is the essential ingredient all nonprofit fundraising programs are built on.  Be sure you are building on a firm foundation by taking the steps necessary to ensure your data is accurate, complete and consistent.  For more tips on data-driven fundraising, plus worksheets and more, check out our Growing Individual Gifts: An Analytical Approach to Data-Driven Success workbook.