What percentage of your donors can you afford to lose?
According to the US Census Bureau, over 11.2% of the population will move during the year, and while this figure is at an all time low, it still represents a significant number of changes that will, most likely, occur in your donor database as well. If you rely on your donors to inform you of their address changes, you will no doubt lose contact with many of them. There are a few ways to take positive action on your own to keep in touch and retain donors who move without notice, however. These include: 3 features available in FundRaiser Spark, Select, and Professional; 1 additional feature available in Select and Professional; and 1 other feature exclusive to Professional.
1. Email Communication
In this age of electronic communication, email addresses can prove to be more stable than physical addresses. Consider, even if you don't regularly email, that you could use email to ask donors to verify current mailing address information. If you've identified bad mailing addresses, either through the postal service or some other means, and you have email addresses recorded, it can be a cost-effective way to obtain those new physical addresses. More and more donors are accepting a "green" solution for thank you letters, too, and it's certainly less expensive to send email than to send hard-copy letter these days. Email capability is built into Spark, Select, and Professional.
2. NCOA Processing
You can have FundRaiser staff run your database address through NCOA processing. NCOA stands for National Change of Address. The process compares your database addresses to current postal service records, checks it for errors, and returns it with corrections and/or notes about the addressing problems found. This process usually takes two business days to complete and can save you hundreds of dollars in postage. Updated addresses are easily imported back into FundRaiser.
3. Category Codes
Category Codes can be used in so many ways that they are invaluable. I consider using them whenever I want to record a "non-giving" aspect of the donor, such as job, hobby, interests, relationship to the organization, etc., but they can also be used to notate problems with mailing addresses. In fact, if you use the NCOA option mentioned above, the incoming data that gets merged back into FundRaiser will most probably have some Category codes added when there is a "nixie" note involved. Nixie notes are short explanations of why an address cannot be used, or corrected, or verified. But if you don't want the expense of NCOA processing, and you just want to research the bad addresses on your own, you may want to create certain Category codes to be applied to records when they aren't reachable by normal mail.
4. Alternate Addresses
Both Select and Professional have the capacity to store an unlimited number of Alternate Addresses per name record, which are normally seasonal or vacation homes occupied during certain times of the the year. Normally you associate a time period (month/day through month/day) when the address is valid, but this area can be used to store "Previous" addresses, too. In this case, you would use a code instead of a time period, and might even mark it as an "Inactive" alternate address, not to be used, but just kept for reference.
5. Relationships (Professional Only)
In Professional, there is a feature that allows you to show a relationship between one name record and another, usually a personal or business relationship, that could help in rare cases, when an address becomes invalid. If there is a relationship established for a record whose address is no longer good, you might consider asking the related person to help you reconnect with that person or business.
Maintaining Communication Channels Retains Donors
In today's economic climate, every donor is important, and the loss of even a small percentage due to incorrect addressing can have a negative effect on your ability to fulfill your mission. Creating avenues to re-establish communications can be vital to maintaining your revenues, and I urge you to consider all the possibilities before allowing a donor to slip away into some undeliverable limbo.
For more information on how to use these areas of FundRaiser, check out