Maintenance is part of our daily lives whether we like it or not. Visiting the dentist twice a year, regular oil changes for your car, and replacing your furnace filter are all examples of beneficial maintenance in our lives. This is no different for your donor database. The better you maintain your data, the easier it is to reach people at the right address and connect with those who are interested in your cause. Data cleanup is an ongoing job that’s not very glamorous, but it’s critical to your overall success.

Here are a few easy tasks that will help keep your data clean, and give you the ability to reach your desired audience.

1. Create data entry rules

It’s important to be consistent when entering data. Give some consideration to how your data should be entered and document these rules. Get into the weeds and examine things like:

• what information will be abbreviated,
• how salutations will be handled,
• how will anonymous gifts will be recorded.

Once you have this sorted out, document it and share the information with your team. Go one step further and add an annual review to your data maintenance plan. People come and go, so it’s important to keep this information current, relevant and easy to share. Consider including data entry rules in employee onboarding reference material.

2. Run an NCOA update

Stay in touch with your donors after they move by using the National Change of Address (NCOA) mover data service – it’s an easy way to make sure your donor’s address data is current. Did you know that close to 4 million Canadians move every year? This means you likely have a few out of date addresses in your database.

You can access NCOA directly through Canada Post or your trusted lettershop. We recommend running NCOA every 6 months either on its own or when mailings go out to the entire donor database.

3. Make use of the backfeed file

After each mailing, the lettershop provides a backfeed file. This file is a great resource for data maintenance. The lettershop may perform upper/lower case conversion, address accuracy and correction, and duplication elimination processing depending on the nature of the mailing. The backfeed file is the final mailing data with the results of the cleanup processing included. You can use this clean data as an update to your database.

4. Return Postage Guarantee

Have you ever used the RPG (Return Postage Guaranteed) indicia on your personalized mail mailings? Without Return Postage Guaranteed service applied to a Personalized Mail mailing, undeliverable mail will not be returned to you. By applying this service to your Personalized Mail mailing, any undeliverable mail will be returned to you for review and processing. Returned mail can be the result of an incorrect address, moved, or a deceased person. Minimizing the number of bad addresses will save you money on postage and printing for future mailings. Canada Post is eliminating the cost for ‘return postage guaranteed’ in 2020 so keep an eye out for more information on this topic in the new year!

Now that you have a good handle on your data maintenance it’s time to go one step further – think variable personalization. I suggest a quick read from Holly Wagg, 3 Data Gems to Better Personalize your Donor Asks.

Take the time to maintain your donor database, work it into your annual maintenance plan, and make it a priority! Do you have a data maintenance tip to share? We’d love to hear from you…

This post was written by Danielle Stevens, former Project Specialist at Good Works.