Filing/Data Entry

Filing/Data Entry

Back in April, I encouraged budgeting a day or so to getting the filing organized and up-to-date. (See In Defense of Paper Filing Systems). If you’re like me, keeping these files organized and up-to-date is a task that frequently falls off the table. So here we are in June – time to do it again. But rather than going over the same ground, this time, I’ll put in a plug for catching up with data entry, too.


Fundraiser’s Almanac – June


Most of us use bulk mail to send out appeals and newsletters during the year. Some even use bulk mail to send out renewal notices. This is cheap, but the post office won’t do you any favors for that price.

For example, if the name is not known at that particular address or even the tiniest thing in the address block is wrong, most mail carriers simply throw the letter away. Meanwhile duplicates are delivered anyway and nothing is forwarded for those who move. The point is that no one circles back around to tell you about it. So the next time you send a bulk mail letter, it goes out with all the same mistakes as last time.

June is a good month to clean this up – or at least set the clean-up in motion.

  • Nearly every mailhouse has access to address clean-up software. You pay a modest amount per thousand addresses and provide an Excel file of your mailing list. They return your mailing list in a standardized format. They will also check for duplicates, zip+four, and name/address mismatches. You could wait until you have a mailing to do, but you could research and price the service now.
  • You can do this yourself, of course, and no system is perfect anyway. Start by using the duplicate check available with your software. Then sort by zip code to see if you have addresses in the database without zip codes. Next sort by the address line and look for multiple mailings going to the same address. Some of these will be legitimate, but others might be duplicates not found any other way.
  • Finally consider using Address Service Requested, which the post office returns undeliverable bulk mail to you for a fee of about two and a half times the original postage – but you get the corrected address back.

Most of my direct mail work was when I was a Nature Conservancy Chapter employee mailing out newsletters and appeals. I would ordinarily mail at least one letter each year with a first class stamp, and use the returns to correct my database.

One year, we even printed up “double” post cards. The actual card was twice the size of a normal postcard. It was then folded over and tabbed closed. The addresses were printed on peel-off labels. The short message thanked the recipient for being a member and asked them to help us clean-up the mailing list. Recipients could correct the label that was there, remove duplicate labels and choose the one they liked, substitute a more formal name with a more casual name, or make any number of other changes. They would then fold the card the opposite way, tab it closed, and mail it back. They enjoyed being asked and we cleaned up our data.

And we did that in – June. To get the database ready for fall mailings.

What are you doing to clean up your mailing list? Do you have tips you can share?





Photo  courtesy of Walt Kaesler.


Related Posts:

My Favorite Donor Filing System

Direct Mail Lists

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1 Comment
  • Peggy Mogush
    Posted at 13:08h, 23 June

    I highly recommend Smarty Streets. We are a small land trust and currently doing our mailings and list management in-house. Smarty Streets is great. We applied for non-profit / grant status and are able to use it at no charge to clean up our list. Using it, plus Return Service Requested on our bulk mail (cheaper than Address Service, but it doesn’t get forwarded on – if we want to do that, we correct and re-mail with a first class stamp) has reduced our returns significantly over time.

    The one thing aren’t able to deal with yet is Snowbirds, primarily because our donor management software is not that sophisticated. We’ll get there.