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Data Entry Best Practices


If it’s Not in VAN, it Doesn’t Exist! We want to give you credit for every action you take on. If you hold 13 one-on-one meetings, but only enter 2 of them in VAN, there is no way for us to see that amazing work. In a national organization, we cannot attend every phone bank, canvass, or voter registration event. We can, however, look at VAN to get a good sense of the amazing work you are doing across your state. We also use VAN to track our progress as a movement. This allows us to allocate resources and change our statewide strategy to create a better organization moving forward.


Enter Data Promptly For targeting and reporting to work well, data must be entered in VAN promptly. Whenever possible, enter Survey Cards, shift results, etc. the same day you collect it. The best hard deadline for data entry is usually a Sunday night by 9pm. Due to the time difference with the East Coast, any data entered after 9pm rolls over to the following day. 


More Data > Less Data In most cases, the more data you can put into VAN, the better. If someone is not home, mark the contact attempt as 'Not Home' in VAN. It can sometimes feel like some of the data entry you input may not be helpful or relevant. This is not true. Every piece of data you put into VAN helps us make our organization more efficient in engaging voters and making change happen now and in the future.


Data Integrity always comes first While we want to see lots of data in VAN, if that information is inaccurate, it not only skews our projections, but also compromises our organization and grassroots work as a whole moving forward. The data we pull out of VAN - lists, targets, and everything else - is only as good as the data we put in. When we put trash in VAN, we get trash out of VAN. Make sure your data is accurate, concise, and entered as soon as possible.


Data Life Cycle Data goes through a cycle. This is the life cycle of volunteer recruitment data: Recruitment list - Event RSVPs - Data on completed shifts - Better recruitment list in the future. 


(Here, we use the data from past event attendees to make better recruitment lists for future events. As you can probably see, if there is inaccurate data at any phase in the data life cycle, it comprises all future phases. There is no substitute for accurate data!)


Data Wins It’s often said that whichever candidate has the best list on Election Day will win. There are a lot of intangible aspects when it comes to organizing, but a strong, data-driven organization is much more powerful than one that operates on gut instinct alone. We will not be able to win without dedication to data, and we hope these articles helps create data excellence in your organizing work.

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  1. Charles

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