Categories: Custom Data Solutions
Duplicate names, outdated addresses and invalid address information are all examples of bad data
When you send out your next personalized direct mail campaign, how can you be sure it is delivered to the right person, and doesn’t end up in the hands of an unresponsive audience? That can be not only frustrating, but costly and time consuming, and it can damage existing donor relationships. Duplicate names, outdated addresses and invalid address information are all examples of bad data. How can you find out what's in your data files?
Ask your data vendor to supply reports on the following 3 segments when they process your next direct mail project:
- Undeliverable or Misdirected Mail
On average, undeliverable mail makes up 4-5% of the entire mail stream in the U.S., meaning almost 5 of every 100 pieces of mail are Undeliverable-As-Addressed USPS Data. The USPS has reported that since 2004, the number of returned mail has increased while the number of forwarded mail has declined. The addresses in your mailing file can quickly become outdated and you can end up paying a big price for undeliverable mail.
So what can you do to counter the cost of this bad data? You are required by the USPS to update your mail file addresses based on the USPS’ compiled list of change of addresses before you send your mailing. Unfortunately, almost 33% of people who move do not complete a change of address form with the USPS, so this process only catches 50% of new moves. Did you know that you can ask your vendor to send you a file of address corrections after your mail has been delivered? This will let you track the pieces returned to your organization in order to update your database.
- Duplicate Mail
Donors can easily be put off by duplicate appeals to them and by an organization’s inability to cut waste from its fundraising programs. For example, Susan J. Sample can reply to one appeal as Sue Sample and the next as Susan Sample Charity-Direct-Mail, and now you have three contacts for the same person. Your vendor will likely match duplicates based on a combination of first name, last name and address information.
Ask your vendor for a list of these duplicate contacts during your file processing. This ensures that you mail only once to each contact, but perhaps more importantly as in the case of Susan J. Sample, you can identify that she has donated more than once to your organization. Some direct mailers create a separate list of these donors, as the names on this list are more likely to respond than one-time donors.
If you remove duplicate household mailings, you will need to determine if your donations are from separate members of each family or as a family contribution. Or perhaps you send multiple appeals to the same address, but only one newsletter to each household. The list of contacts with duplicate addresses can help you evaluate your approach.
- Unlikely to Respond
It’s standard practice for direct mailers to suppress addresses from their mailing where the contact could be deceased, but as a nonprofit you might take a different approach. You could have a unique situation where the family of the deceased may want to donate in honor of their loved one. This might be a separate campaign strategy that you can discuss with your vendor.
Suppression files for individuals who have filed for bankruptcy are available, but costly. It’s a difficult time for these individuals, as well as those who have been affected by a natural disaster. Your vendor will have a list of post offices in the affected area and let you know which contacts fall into these zip codes. With the data from the suppression files, you can determine whether to eliminate contacts from your mailing or treat a particular segment differently.
Be sure to use your vendor to help navigate the complexities of these three data hygiene tactics. It should reduce that stack of returned mail on your desk, as well as save you postage money and production costs. And your donors will thank you.
You can also stay on top of your data by implementing the Intelligent Mail barcode in to your mailing's. Our featured download "Informational Guide to the Intelligent Mail Barcode" takes an in depth look at how automation capabilities inherent to the IMb are geared towards saving you money. The IMb also has a host of associated service options that open up new or improved campaign options.