3 Steps to Better Data for Personalized Direct Mail
By Crystal Uppercue
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 Duplicate names, outdated addresses and invalid address information are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:
1. 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. 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 The addresses in your mailing file can quickly become outdated and you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, to qualify for postal discounts.
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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
--- This article was posted in the EUS Marketing Blog and Target Marketing Magazine.