Advanced: Importing

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Collecting information in spreadsheets and then moving them into PowerBase can be efficient, and we will learn how to do that for Contacts and Event Participants.


Understand how information needs to be structured in order to be able to import successfully.


Comfort with spreadsheet software, good understanding of how PowerBase creates contact records and event participant records.


50 Minutes TOTAL:

  • 10 Discussion
  • 40 minutes – Demo Importing Contacts
  • 40 minutes – Group practices imports and discuss duplicate contact file


What do we import? Popcorn style question. Looking for: VAN data, sign up sheets, data from other databases, etc.

Will the data we are importing have duplicates? If so, is the data we are importing better or our existing data? Looking for: it depends.

INSTRUCT GROUP: Do not follow along on your screen, instead pay attention and watch. Everyone will have a chance to import a file later.

Clean data and setup CSV file for Import

Download the trainer import file

Review the Excel sheet and Filter the spreadsheet * Always to visual scan for problems * Change headers so you will know what they are * If importing a field that is drop down, value must be there

Convert the Excel sheet to a CSV file (or use the sample completed file)

For Duplicate Contacts

  • Database data is better than imported data: Skip
  • Database data is worse than imported data: Update
  • Database data is better, but might be incomplete: Fill

Import your Contact File

Click on Contacts > Import Contacts

Review the following concepts & fields each screen:

Choose Data Source (Step 1 of 4):

Options for Duplicate Contacts Open the duplicates' spreadsheet, delete the first two columns, save and then import them with the Step 1 option set to Update or Fill.

Update replaces data in PB with data in the spreadsheet. If the first name is different in the spreadsheet than it is in PB, if you choose Update it will change the first name. If you choose Fill, it will only import information into fields that are blank.

There is another kind of error, where PowerBase sees missing Related data. If you are importing Employer names, for example, any record that does not have an Employer will show up in this error spreadsheet.

Dedupe rule Gotcha: default dedupe rule is unsupervised, not supervised (why? Because you are not supervising every single row being imported) Strategies: If you are not importing email addresses, then a dedupe rule that depends on an email address won’t work! Think through best strategy.

Date format If you have columns with dates, they all need to use the same format. If you are not importing dates, you do not have to worry about this. If you get it wrong, PowerBase will let you know.

Geocode Addresses during Import It's best to leave this unchecked. This can be a performance stopper for imports if PowerBase has to geocode each record, which means making calls to google geocoding provider for each contact. Once the data is imported into PowerBase, those records will be geocoded later based on the setting of scheduled jobs.

Load Saved Field Mapping Let's get to the second screen in order to explain what a Field Mapping is. The first time you do this, there will not be a field mapping for your data.

Match Fields (step 2 of 4)

For each field in your spreadsheet (on the left hand side) you need to identify the field in PowerBase that will hold the data.

Once you map every field, you can choose to Save the mapping. You mostly want to do this because if you made a mistake, or forgot to add an option (or many other things that can happen), and you find yourself importing this sheet again (or another one with the same fields) you will want to be able to not have to do this tedious work again. If you save it here, it will be available in Step 1, at the bottom.

Preview (step 3 of 4)

Are we ready to import? Verify the total number. Does it match how many records you have in your spreadsheet?

Are there any errors in our data? Did we forget an option? Are we trying to import an invalid email address?

If there are errors, PowerBase will have a spreadsheet listing the error with each row. You can download that spreadsheet, open it and fix the errors on the main spreadsheet and start back at Step 1. Or you can finish the import and deal with the spreadsheet of mistakes afterwards.

ALWAYS create a new group for this import. If for some reason you totally screwed it up, you will have an easy way to undo: delete all the contacts in the new group you created!

You can also add these to an existing group, or more than one group, along with the new one that you are always creating.

Summary (step 4 of 4)

The final screen reports the successful imports along with Duplicate Contacts and Errors. If you have set the import to add all contacts to a Group or Tag, you can click through to see your imported contact records. Duplicates will not be imported but you will have a spreadsheet available to download so you can continue working with those records.

Note: Review what happens with Duplicates when Folks start importing the same CSV file into PowerBase


Importing participants, activities: Don’t do it. Instead, import contacts then assign.

Group Exercise

Break into pairs!