Merging Records

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This article serves as a reference guide to the Merging records functionality of DARS.

Over the past few years, DARS has absorbed a lot of data from a variety of separate data sources. Although there has been a big effort to match new records to existing records on DARS with on average 90% of records being matched, some records require further information before they can be merged. The DARS Support Centre has two available tools to assist in removing duplicate records.

Types of duplicate identification processes

Automated duplicate checking process

The DARS Support Centre has a duplicate tool that monitors the number of potential duplicates on a daily basis. These matches are then divided into high, medium and low potential matches, depending on how many data items match between the two records. High matches are treated as a priority and dealt with as soon as possible. Medium matches are treated next and low matches are investigated whenever possible. Multiple duplicates can therefore be identified and reviewed by a member of the DARS Support Centre quickly and merged as a part of a bulk process.

Manual merges

This is the term we give to requests from users who have identified duplicate records. Rather than using the automated process and tool above to identify and merge duplicate records, any such records are merged on an individual basis. When users report duplicates, we ask that they supply the DARS Support Centre with the following information:

  • The Lookup IDs and Names of all records to be merged
  • For each set up merges a brief explanation as to why it is believed that these two records are duplicates (eg same email address and date of birth, informed by alumnus that they receive two copies of mailing, etc)

A word about un-merging constituents and revenue

Un-merging records is extremely time consuming as it can take around three hours per record (compared to six minutes to merge them) to find out why the records were merged, identifying which information belongs to which individual, deleting the information from the merged record and adding it to another record. However, areas such as Event Attendance and Communication History cannot be unmerged.

This process is further complicated when one of the individuals is a donor or even worse when both are donors. When Gift Aided revenue is moved to a different record, a Gift Aid refund is triggered. The relationship manager will then need to ascertain whether Gift Aid claimed while the record was merged was claimed with the correct donor details.

  • If the answer is no, then a Gift Aid refund report will need to be generated and together with a new Gift Aid claim for those donations with the correct donor details submitted to HMRC.
  • If the answer is yes, then the Gift Aid refund report will still need to be generated as well as another Gift Aid claim for those donations, but neither should be submitted to HMRC, as Gift Aid will already have been claimed.

We therefore take these preventative steps to avoid wrongly merging records:

  1. We only merge automated suggested matches when there are sufficient duplicate data fields on both records or we can verify education details with another source, such as the student database (SITS) or published books of Old Members (such as the “Oxford University List of Members”).
  2. Where one record is a donor, we will keep this as the active record to avoid moving revenue to another record.
  3. When both records are donors, we will seek additional reassurance from the participants in receipt of that revenue to ensure these are definitely the same person.

Process for merging records

Actions for positive match

Once a suggested duplicate has been reviewed and it is deemed that the two records are duplicates, the DARS Support Centre will merge them into one:

  • One of the two records will remain active and contain the information from both records
  • Although the second record will still be kept, it will be empty and made inactive

When deciding which record should be the “target” record (ie the record into which the data from the other record is copied into), these rules are assessed in the following order of priority:

  1. The record that is linked to a BBIS user account becomes the target *
  2. The record that contains donations becomes the target *
  3. The record with the earliest Oxford Education record becomes the target
  4. The record with the most information becomes the target

Please see "A word about un-merging records" and "Additional post-merge data clean up" for details on when both records are donors or both have BBIS user accounts.

To identify a record that has a BBIS user account click on the Online Info tab to confirm their registration (it will show their Username, Registration and Last login date). If they do not have a BBIS user account the following message will appear: The section could not be loaded. The record specified does not exist for this data form.

Online info screenshot.jpg

Action for negative match

When an automated match is reviewed and the two records are not deemed to be for the same person or there is insufficient information to confirm that these two records are for the same person, then the two records are flagged with a Relationship between them with a type of “Do not merge”. This decision can be reviewed as more information becomes available over time. This can be either new data stored on the records or anecdotal information received from users.

Additional post-merge data clean up

Following a “merge”, the DARS Support Centre will manually correct any data anomalies on the new records such as:

  • Duplicate addresses, contact details, relationships will be removed
  • Education details will be standardised and duplicates removed
  • New Relationship Managers and Interested Parties will be assigned based on the education and/or relationship data stored on the new record.

The following areas of data will require the involvement of other participants in order to complete the merge:

  • Revenue: where both records contain revenue data and one record’s revenue are Transfer donations and the records are College donations (taken from their pre-DARS adoption database), we ask that the relevant participant deletes the College donations and updates the Transfer donations transfer dates, campaigns and appeals as necessary, as they are best placed to delete their own revenue and will know what information to update. Instructions on how to do so can be found here. In addition, if the college donations that have been deleted contained a Gift Aid Tax Claim reference (even a dummy one), Gift Aid refunds will be triggered which will need to be run, but not submitted to HMRC.
  • BBIS user accounts: where both records have been registered with a BBIS user account, one of the two records will have to be unlinked. The DARS Support Centre communicates this change with the University’s Alumni Office who will get in touch with the alumnus.
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