We, as marketers, are very reliant on our CRMs. Our fundraising strategy, campaign performance, and donor analytics are only as reliable as our trusted CRM data. The upkeep of this data is time-consuming and requires staffing resources and ongoing investment. However, forgoing the proper maintenance will cause long-term detriment to the entire marketing program and be a costly investment to correct. One of the most important yet simple upkeep items is keeping constituent address information up-to-date.
On average, 9.8% of people move each year and 31 million people moved in 2019. While many data vendors and mailshops can perform National Change of Address (NCOA) on your file prior to it being mailed, there is a limit on how long this remains sustainable if the data is never updated in the CRM. For instance, the USPS offers two types of NCOA products: 18-month and 48-month. Depending on which type of product the vendor has access to (most common is 18-month), determines how far back they can capture address changes.
Now, let’s assume the CRM isn’t updated with address changes, the vendor uses 18-month NCOA and the campaign mails at Marketing Mail rates (previously known as Standard Bulk Mail). If the address change was within 18-months, it will be captured by the vendor; if it is after 18-months, the vendor won’t capture the change and the USPS will deliver the piece to the address at which the constituent no longer lives.
This can cause long-term compounded issues:
- In all likelihood, this constituent will continue to be mailed at an incorrect address in Appeals/Renewals for the next 6-18 months. This is not only a front-end expense (print, production, and postage), but also a loss in donor engagement and further giving opportunity.
- If this constituent is pulled into a Lapsed or Deep-Lapsed segmentation then the same issues will occur as in Appeals/Renewals (above) and that could go on for several more years.
- This will also cause lower reactivation performance.
- Donor analytics won’t necessarily be reliable as constituents may have only stopped giving because they were no longer receiving solicitations. Meaning, analysis numbers, such as donor retention, could be artificially lower than they should be.
- Acquisition lists could overlap with active/lapsed donors because the active donor address is stale while Acquisition list data is consistently updated.
- i.e.: If the same donor gives to an Acquisition campaign then the constituent will be added to the CRM which will cause duplicates (one record with a wrong address and one record with a valid address).
There are several proactive measures to keep the CRM address data up-to-date, all of which are ongoing maintenance options:
- If your organization runs a quarterly Acquisition Program then it is likely that you are supplying the merge vendor with active, lapsed, and deep-lapsed donors to match against the outside lists. The merge vendor can return the house NCOA updates which can then be updated in the CRM.
- An outside data vendor can run NCOA on the entire universe or a subset of the universe (active, lapsed, deep-lapsed) which can then be updated in the CRM. It is important to schedule these updates at least four times a year.
- Some CRMs offer add-on address hygiene and change of address tools to keep addresses valid.
If the CRM is already out of date, there are several options to validate existing addresses and update those that have changed. This is a necessary step before the transition to one of the maintenance options listed above:
- If the CRM universe has been NCOA’d in the past 48 months then using an outside data vendor to run NCOA 48-month will capture constituents who have moved within that window.
- If the CRM universe has not been NCOA’d in the past 48 months then there are providers that offer a Proprietary Change of Address (PCOA) service. PCOA consists of address changes from outside sources such as: Utility Companies, Magazine Subscriptions, Credit Bureaus, Credit Card Companies, etc. Each provider has its own proprietary list and its retention-offering can range from 5-35 years. Most PCOA providers will also process NCOA 48-month at the same time.
- PCOA can be an expensive service, mainly depending on total file quantity.
Once the CRM addresses have been updated then it is best to work towards isolating and merging duplicate constituents as there is a high chance duplicates have been created over time.
There are many other CRM data upkeep items that are just as important. Chapman Cubine Allen + Hussey will continue this series in 2021 to include items such as: deceased data appends, apartment appends, telephone appends, ECOA/eAppends, and demographic appends. If you would like help with your data processing needs, reach out to work with us.