Although many of us may have started the year in a bit of a stupor from all of the good food and treats we consumed over the holidays, the polar vortex has likely snapped you out of it and you’re focused anew on your resolutions.

Perhaps you want to tackle that home improvement project you’ve been putting off. Maybe, like me, you’ve made getting back in shape a priority. Why not extend some of that productivity to your day job, and focus on cleaning up your database and making smarter segmentation and more efficient mailings a priority this year?

In light of Canada Post’s recent news that they plan to phase out door-to-door delivery over the next five years and will be significantly increasing the cost of a first-class stamp effective March 31, 2014, (from $0.63 to $0.85 for stamps purchased in bulk, but $0.63 to $1.00 for stamps purchased individually), it’s high time that charities looked at more efficient ways to connect with donors. (My colleague Leah Eustace has some great tips about How to Plan for Success in Spite of Canada Post).

Here are three tips to help ensure the right message reaches the right donors, in the most efficient way possible.

1. Database Clean-Up

There’s no time like the present to tackle that long overdue clean-up you’ve been putting off.  The truth is, it all starts with data! There’s just no point in spending time and money to tailor your messages if they never reach your donors.

It doesn’t have to be a labour-intensive project and it does not need to cost you an arm and a leg. Here are some budget-friendly options you may want to consider:

Address Accuracy

This is the best place to start with respect to database clean up. Canada Post has specific requirements for Address Accuracy, depending on the types of mailingsAddressed Admail, Lettermail and Publications Mail. For example, the Address Accuracy Program is mandatory for Addressed Admail mailings of more than 5,000 pieces.

Most mailing houses can complete this process on your behalf using Canada Post recognized software. Once completed, you’ll receive a Statement of Accuracy that reports the percentage of accurate addresses on your mailing list (the standard for Address Accuracy is 95 per cent, which means that 95 per cent of the addresses on your mailing list are deemed ‘valid’ by Canada Post).

This service costs approximately $150 – a wise investment in my opinion. Ensuring that addresses on file are accurate will save your charity money by reducing the likelihood of undeliverable/returned mail, duplicates, or addresses belonging to individuals who have requested not to be contacted. Not to mention, you will also save on costly surcharges that are applied to every mailing.

You can learn more about Canada Post’s Address Accuracy Program here.

Mover Update

According to Canada Post, each year approximately 1.2 million households file a change of address notification.

The Mover Update or National Change of Address (NCOA) Data Product ensures access to the most accurate, up-to-date mover information available; ensuring that more of your mail reaches your target audience, thus reducing the number of preventable lapses and overall attrition.

For more information on the NCOA service, or to locate a licensed NCOA mail service provider, visit the Canada Post website.

Phone Append Services

While you’re at it, why not consider verifying phone numbers stored in your database and acquiring some new numbers as well? This will help you get a head start on your telemarketing efforts as well as any internal calls you plan to make this year.

Phone append services will verify all provided phone numbers to ensure accuracy of your database, update inaccurate records with correct phone numbers and provide up to date numbers for those donors who do not yet have a phone number on file. I should mention that not all of the missing phone numbers will be found and not all of the inaccurate numbers will be corrected (suppliers typically guarantee a 40 – 60 per cent match rate).

2. Smarter Segmentation

Much of the information needed to meet donors where they are lives in YOUR database. You’ve no doubt heard the term ‘Big Data.’ It’s certainly getting lots of attention these days. Simply put, Big Data are large data sets that combine various sources (traditional data, behavioural data, and external data) to allow marketers to customize their messages based on various segments of their database (here’s a great article about ‘Big Data’ by Forbes).

But before you go getting stressed out about Big Data, think about how you can mine the data you already have to segment smarter. For example, you are likely already familiar with donor characteristics and behaviour that might indicate a donor’s propensity to convert from single gifts to monthly giving (donors who make multiple gifts annually, donors who donate using a credit card). But perhaps you aren’t speaking to your most loyal and generous donors about increasing their commitment to your cause or charity.

Smarter segmentation means focusing on leveraging single-gift donors to monthly, mid-level, major or potentially legacy giving. This is where you can achieve the greatest revenue growth and build solid, lasting relationships with your donors in the process.

3. Targeting

Once you’ve cleaned up your database by ensuring addresses in your mailing list are accurate and phone numbers up to date, you’re likely ready to think about opportunities to create customized approaches to connect with donors.

There are several products available to help you complete this. Canada Post has some great products like Audiences & Insights Solutions and Precision Targeter that can help you target your acquisition campaigns, based on a specific budget.  The folks at ENVIRONICS Analytics have many options available as well, including software tools like ENVISION Micromarketing and the Geoscape Intelligence System.

With increased competition for your donors’ dollars and a much savvier donor pool, a truly successful charity will start with clean data, segment their existing data intelligently and integrate all fundraising channels.

This post was written by Heather Brown, former Philanthropic Counsel at Good Works and fundraiser extraordinaire. The article originally appeared at Hilborn: the leading provider of information to Canada’s nonprofit sector.