In the article below, the term Voters is used as a generic term for Voters, Donors, and Contacts.
Every vehicle requires regular maintenance such as changing the oil, replacing the tires, replacing wiper blades, changing transmission fluid, etc. The regular maintenance is suggested by the vehicle manufacturer so that you gain optimal performance from your vehicle. It is also advised in order to prevent unwanted damage to your vehicle.
Trail Blazer is like a vehicle: we suggest regular maintenance so that your data is positioned for more optimal use. We also advise some regular maintenance in order to prevent unwanted access (and thus potential damage) to your database. This article presents several suggestions for regular maintenance to your organization’s Trail Blazer database.
Some of the following suggestions require that you have access to the System Manager area of Trail Blazer’s Application Menu.
Updating Contents for Lists
There are many areas inside Trail Blazer where the contents of the drop-down boxes are based on the unique values. Several examples of this are:
· In the Voter Search window, the Last Name, First Name, and Middle Name fields in the Name sub-tab of the General tab.
· In the Voter Search window, General tab, User, Text sub-tab User Fields 1 through 6.
· List of City names - various places inside Trail Blazer.
· List of County (or Parish) names – various places inside Trail Blazer.
These drop-downs along with many other drop-downs are based on the unique list of values inside those fields. These lists are not always updated automatically by Trail Blazer.
In order to update these lists, do the following:
· In Trail Blazer’s Application Menu (#1 in picture below), expand the System Manager folder (#2 in picture below).
· Under that, expand the Settings folder (#3 in picture below).
· Click on Update Unique Search Values (Drop Downs) (#4 in picture below).
· This brings up a window like the following. Click OK.
Trail Blazer will then regenerate the contents of the drop-downs. When the regeneration is complete, you will see the following window. Click OK. You are done.
How often should you do this? We recommend you do this on the following schedule:
· After any import that creates/updates voter or voter address information.
· After every third or fourth event where event sign up was handled from your website.
· Once per 200 new voters entered into Trail Blazer (either from the web or entered manually through Trail Blazer).
· Once every 1 to 3 months.
· As needed if new entries need to be available to everyone.
A side note about the drop-downs in the search windows: you are able to type into any field that has a drop-down. For example, in the Last Name field of the Voter Search window you could type Smi and click search – even though there is a drop-downs of last names. Or you could type Smi and be brought to the beginning of a drop-down of last names that start with Smi which come from the stored list of all last names.
Managing Duplicate Voters
Over time, your Trail Blazer database may accumulate duplicate voters. How to merge duplicate voters are explained in this short YouTube video. The video explains the preparation needed to automatically merge and automatically find possible duplicate voters. The video also demonstrates the manual “drag and drop” method of merging voters.
How often should you merge duplicate voters? We advise doing the manual “drag and drop” method of merging voters whenever you encounter the duplicate voters in a list. As for doing the automated merging of voters or finding possible duplicate voters, we give the following suggested schedule:
· After any import that creates/updates voter or voter address data.
· Before you do a mailing.
· Once every few months.
· Before running the householding tool.
· Before generating walk lists (political customers).
Managing Duplicate Addresses
As with voters (or Donors or Contacts), duplicate addresses can accumulate over time in Trail Blazer. Similar to managing duplicate voters, there are two ways of handling duplicate addresses:
· Manual “drag and drop” method.
· The two step “conform and merge” process where each step is automated.
With either method, you need to be in the Addresses search window. You get to this window by going to the Application Menu. Expand the Voter folder. Click Addresses. This is shown in the picture below.
As with the voter manual “drag and drop” method you follow similar steps:
· Search for the addresses you wish to merge.
· Drag the one you want to merge “from” and drop it onto the one you want to keep.
· A confirmation window like the one below will show. Review the information then click the “I understand that…” box and click OK to continue. Or if you want to cancel the merge process, click Cancel.
· If you clicked OK, then the addresses will merge.
How often do we suggest that you do the manual “drag and drop” style of address merging? We advise that you do it when both of the items apply:
· You notice a duplicate address
· Either you have an immediate need to have the address merged or the addresses will not merge via the “conform and merge” process.
As the name suggests, the two step “conform and merge” process has two primary steps. These steps are:
· Conform Addresses – this step is explained in this Knowledge Base article.
· Merge Addresses – this step is explained in this Knowledge Base Article. Look for the section at the top that says Steps to Merge Duplicate Address Records.
How often do we recommend that you do the two step “conform and merge” process? Our suggestions follow.
· Immediately before doing an automatic merging of voters.
· Immediately before finding possible duplicate voters.
· Before you do a mailing.
· Once every few months.
Handling Bounced Email Addresses
Sometimes when you send emails from Trail Blazer, one (or more) of the voters email address will be marked in Trail Blazer as bounced. This linkpresents Trail Blazer’s bounced email policy and what you can do to confirm if the voter’s email address is valid.
If you determine that an email of a particular voter that has been bounced needs correction, perform the following steps.
· Search for the voter.
· Open the voter.
· Go to the General tab. This is listed as #1 in the following picture.
· Go to the Contact tab on the second row of tabs. This is #2 in the following picture.
· Make corrections to the e-mail address or alt E-mail address as needed. An example of this is #3 in the picture below.
· Uncheck the Bounced box for the email address you changed in the previous step. This is #4 in the picture below.
We recommend that you routinely search for, research, and fix bounced email addresses. Opportune times for you to do this are:
· A couple of days after your latest email blast was sent. Or once every week or two weeks if you send emails on a daily basis.
· A week or two before a very important email blast is to be conducted.
· If you use Trail Blazer for sending emails - at least once per 4 months. Otherwise, you don’t need to worry about doing this.
Review User Security and Access Levels
People come and people go in every organization. Over time, people can be in different roles for an organization. As such, we suggest a periodic review of your Trail Blazer users and settings.
This section assumes that you have administrative security access inside Trail Blazer. This linktalks about how to set up users and their security access levels. Each security access level is described in that Knowledge Base article. Do you need to revoke someone’s access to your Trail Blazer completely? This linkinstructs you how to remove all of their access to Trail Blazer.
What do we recommend for reviewing your organization’s Trail Blazer user security and access levels? We recommend the following:
· If a Trail Blazer user leaves your organization. Revoke their Trail Blazer as soon as you can. This person is no longer part of your organization. Until they are removed as a Trail Blazer user, they can still log in to your Trail Blazer database and access your organization’s data. This is a security risk for your organization.
· If you need to set up a new Trail Blazer user. Do this as soon as possible. Until they are set up, they will not be able to access Trail Blazer and do their assigned Trail Blazer duties.
Remember that your Trail Blazer license comes with the ability to create an unlimited number of users (still true as of 7/30/2013, but subject to future change).
· Periodic review of user access and security access levels. This is really up to your organization to determine. The guidance we give you is that to do this more frequently if you have a large organization or after significant turnover in the organization. Do this less often if you have a small organization or if very few people join, leave, or change roles in the organization over time.
One more note about Trail Blazer user security and access levels: Trail Blazer strongly advises that each and every person that will use Trail Blazer be given their own login ID and password with appropriate security access levels set. Trail Blazer associates updates, deletes, and new records with the user that created them. This is to determine from any future date the user that created or changed or deleted information in the database. By having people “share” the same user ID and password, Trail Blazer can no longer identify one single person as having performed an action on the data.
Importing Voters That Have E-mail Addresses
When you import voter information where you include e-mail addresses as a column to import, you will need to contact Trail Blazer Support by phone (866-909-8700) or by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) to have a discussion about the source of the data. Until verbally approved by Trail Blazer, you will be unable to send e-mails from Trail Blazer to those new e-mail addresses.
Over time voters move, get married, become a registered voter (political customers only), die, change names, or have others in their households go through those life events. Once you change voter data in Trail Blazer to reflect those changes, it likely will impact the Household records.
However, household records are not created or updated when voter information changes. That means that you need to maintain household records on an on-going basis. This link gives instructions how to manage households along with links to related information. That information includes a link to a YouTube video on how to manually drag and drop a voter into an existing household.
Please note that if a voter (example: Harry Adams at 123 Main St, Anoka, MN) is in a household record and you add another voter at the same record (example: Sally Adams at 123 Main St, Anoka, MN) the second voter (example: Sally Adams) will not be part of the household Record (in this example: Harry Adams’ household record). Running Trail Blazer’s householding tool without first deleting the first voter’s household record (in this record: the household record for Harry Adams at 123 Main St, Anoka, MN) you will end up creating a second household record for the second voter (example: Sally Adams).
How often does Trail Blazer recommend that you maintain household information? That depends. Not all Trail Blazer databases are householded nor should all Trail Blazer databases be householded. The discussion of whether or not your database should be householded is beyond the scope of this article. A discussion with a Trail Blazer Support Team member whether or not your database should be householded is strongly advised before you run the housholding tool. Call support at 866-909-8700 (or 952-767-2651 if local) or email support at email@example.com .
There are two approaches to maintaining household records in Trail Blazer. One is manually maintaining households and the other is running Trail Blazer’s householding tool to household all un-householded voters. The other is to manually create and maintain households. As mentioned earlier in this section, this linkshows how to do the automatic method and contains links to how to manually do household related tasks.
The following are guidelines when you should perform household maintenance. Again, if your database has not been householded, we strongly advise that you contact the Trail Blazer Support Team to see if you should be householded or not and assistance with running the householding tool.
· A few days before you write a letter inside Trail Blazer to a significant number of contacts where your letter will use any of the Trail Blazer household merge fields.
· When you spot that people should be householded together but are not.
· After a significant number of new voters were created. These could be created via import, manually created through Trail Blazer, or through Trail Blazer’s website widgets programmed into your organization’s web page. You decide what a “significant number” means for your organization. One possible number is 200.