In the same way our bodies do, keeping a database healthy requires consistent work. This post gives you some practical methods for achieving database health, or what is sometimes referred to as reachability, a focus on answering the questions, “can you contact everyone in your database to ask them to consider a gift, and if so, can you do this through multiple channels?”
What won’t be covered in this post is anything related to deciding and then maintaining a scheme for how to group people within your database, how to manage retention, or prospect screening and research. Those are separate topics for another time.
SmartyStreets is a service that is both awesome and offered free of charge (to nonprofits). When you set up a SmartyStreets account and connect it to your LGL account (see our Knowledge Base article), LGL will work through all the addresses in your account and send them to SmartyStreets to validate them, add Zip+4, and standardize their formatting to USPS standards. And, when you enter new constituents or new addresses, SmartyStreets will help you ensure the addresses are valid for delivery.
While there are many other ways to communicate besides physical mail, it is nonetheless a critical avenue of communication for fundraising. A great tool like SmartyStreets helps you keep this part of your LGL database healthy.
While LGL offers this service for $150 (in your LGL account, go to Settings > Subscription Settings and look for Data Services), we always ask clients if they are already gaining the benefit of NCOA through their mail house.
NCOA is short for the National Change of Address database. Running your list through this screening process helps you a) find people’s new addresses when they have filed a “change of address” form with the USPS and b) stop mailing to people at addresses that have been marked “return to sender” and added to the NCOA database.
Mail houses that do large mailings such as newsletters or appeals are likely running your list through this process currently. If you are receiving bulk mail rates, the mail house is required to do so. We recommend you check with your mail house to see if they are running NCOA on your list and, if so, ask to get the results. (You’ll need to make sure the list you send them from LGL includes the LGL Constituent ID and the LGL Address ID.)
If you don’t use a mail house or just want LGL to perform the service (we won’t set you up for bulk mailings), we recommend the process occasionally (once per year is usually sufficient).
NCOA is a worthwhile investment. LGL customers who complete this service typically receive updated addresses for between 5 to 10 percent of their constituents.
LGL offers several shortcuts for taking a quick look at the health of your database. In combination with the simple instructions that follow, these can help you prioritize steps toward increasing your database’s health. (Use this Excel spreadsheet to manually input the information the steps will help you find in LGL—a great way to see how your entire database is doing. We recommend you save the worksheet to your hard drive with the current date added to the filename so you have a snapshot of the statistics frozen in time. After working in your database for another 6 months or so, you can do this again and compare the results.)
If your database is missing contact details, here are a few options to consider:
It’s neither too time-consuming nor costly to take measurable steps toward cleaning up your LGL database and getting a handle on your reachability (e.g., the statistical review should take less than 30 minutes).
In a survey we completed in conjunction with Marts & Lundy, we found that only 32% of the nonprofit respondents had performed any type of data audit on their fundraising database. Even something as simple as an NCOA screening had been completed by only 46% of respondents.
We at LGL are committed to your reachability. So we hope you’ll start improving the health of your LGL database today using the steps shared in this article.
Join us for a guided tour of our software, with Live Q&AView Recording or Register Now >
Visit our extensive knowledge base for troubleshooting tipsVisit Now > Learning Resources
Get knowledgeable support from our team, our community and our helpful articlesLearn More > Browse our Consultant Network
Get help migrating complex dataFind a consultant > Free Courses & Downloads View All >
Meet other Little Green Light users. Share resources and tips.Request Access >