List Hygiene

oral-hygieneA significant portion of our success in direct mail solicitation hinges on the quality of our mailing lists.  To begin with, consumer mailing lists go sour at a rate of 2% per month, or 25% per year.  That means over the next twelve months one quarter of your mailing list will move, die, marry or divorce.  If you don’t clean your list at least once or twice per year you are throwing money down the drain.  That not only includes the wasted postage, but also the cost of printing the letters, envelopes, return mail pieces, and most importantly your integrity with your donors.  Here are a few basic tips to effective list hygiene.

  1. Take advantage of the NCOA (National Change of Address) file put out by the United States Postal Service.  If you do not subscribe to this service, it is available through mail list vendors and mailing houses in your area.
  2. Use zip code correction.  Most of us are now aware of the ZIP + 4 capabilities that make mail delivery more accurate, but list management services can actually provide an 11 digit “delivery point barcode” that saves you money on postage through direct mail automation.
  3. Address standardization is another service that saves money.  This service insures that every name and address meets postal standardization requirements.  For example the address John Smith, 123 Main North Main Street, Franklin, TN 37064, should actually read:


123 N  MAIN ST


  1. Merge/Purge is a service that eliminates duplicates from your mailing list.  Without merge/purge a person that appears in four databases within your organization may get four mailings.

Thousands of dollars are wasted and your organization’s credibility is impaired when you fail to practice good list hygiene.  Practice these four simple procedures and you can reduce your printing and postage costs, reduce embarrassing mailings to deceased or divorced individuals and increase the productivity of your organization.

-Trent H. Wheeler

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