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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Direct mail to the deceased - a marketing and fundraising nightmare ...

Photo of a person grieving over a loved oneWhen a family member passes away, one of the last things that a spouse or other relative who was left behind wants to deal with is receiving direct mail addressed to the recently deceased. The United States Post Office will continue delivering mail to the deceased until they are officially notified that delivery is to cease. This requires a grieving family member visit the post office with a legal death certificate. There have been instances where a deceased person has continued receiving mail several years after their passing.

You can wait until the post office is notified of the passing and stops mailing to the deceased. Or you can wait until you receive a request from the family of the deceased to remove them from your mailing list.  But the last thing a fundraiser or marketer wants to do is cause further pain on the family of a previous donor, or customer. Nothing is more embarrassing or insensitive - especially when paired with slogans such as "Donate now to save a life", or "Act now for a once in a lifetime opportunity!".

Image of redacted direct mail nightmare letter sent to Dennis McCloskey nearly one year after his passing.Many of you may know of the passing of Dennis McCloskey in May of 2012, Movad's owner. Dennis' wife and partner is now the President of Movad. She recently received a direct mail piece personalized to Dennis from a large organization. In the piece they included a box with a real cork, and a letter which included phrases such as "we want to help you celebrate a new phase of your business or personal life with a toast to what's next", and "Visit (personalized web address) to learn more about how we can help you live the life you deserve." She relayed to me how much the letter had upset her, and how she's been trying to reach out to the Executive Director to inform him of his blunder.

What's the alternative to this, how can you avoid this terrible situation?

By being proactive with your mailing practices and using a deceased mailing suppression service which will either flag your mailing list with a deceased field in the data, or by removing the recipient completely from the list. These databases are updated on a monthly basis, and the process begins once a death is reported to the Social Security Administration. The processing may take a few months before all of the deceased suppression databases have been updated. While no service can guarantee 100% suppression - a vast majority of the deceased recipients will be caught by using such a service. Besides the benefit of avoiding an insensitive message to the family, depending on the size of your mail lists and how clean you have kept it, this may also save you money in printing and postage.

Along with deceased mailing suppression, you may want to consider further cleansing of your mail list which includes DMA Suppression - this stops mailing to recipients who have signed up for the national DMA Do-Not-Mail list. You could also use a suppression suite which cleanses both DMA mail preference, deceased suppression, and also includes prison, trailer park, and nursing home suppression as well. While you may not wish to run your entire list against this kind of suppression, you may want to consider this for people you have never contacted before - such as an acquisition list, or a list you recently purchased.

Maintaining your data, and keeping it clean is a responsibility you should not take lightly. A mistake such as those described above can cause pain to a previous donor's family, and prevent future donations or purchases. Movad offers the services mentioned in this blog, and we welcome the opportunity to work with you. Whether or not you use our services, we highly recommend that you recognize the importance of this suppression and look into this now.

Do you have questions about this service, or do you have a similar story to share? Let us know in the comments below. You can also reach us through our contact us page, or call us at 215.638.2679. And please feel free to share this blog with your colleagues - the more who know that these services exist the better!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The United States Postal Service's transition to a 5 day delivery schedule, and how will it affect you?

In an effort to generate an approximate $2 billion of annual cost savings, on February 6th, 2013, The United States Postal Service announced plans to transition to a five day delivery schedule for mail delivery - Monday through Friday, however packages and mail sent to PO Boxes will continue to be delivered on Saturday. This change in delivery schedule is set to begin in August of this year.

The Postal Service is advancing an important new approach to delivery that reflects the strong growth of our package business and responds to the financial realities resulting from America’s changing mailing habits,” said Patrick R. Donahoe, Postmaster General and CEO. “We developed this approach by working with our customers to understand their delivery needs and by identifying creative ways to generate significant cost savings.”

But what impact will this have on Direct Mail that you send? With one less day of mail delivery in the week, there is likely to be a slight increase of pieces of mail each household receives in a day. And with those additional pieces comes additional competition for the recipients attention. The more appealing your piece is at first glance, the more likely it will be opened.

You may also want to rethink the day your mailings drop at the post office. It's unknown whether the bulk of this additional mail that would normally be delivered on Saturday will just shift to a Monday delivery, however, bulk mail will still be processed, but not delivered on Saturdays, so that will most likely be the case.

But the only sure thing is that you will need to continue to be creative with your pieces. Make your mailing stand out from every other piece, and it will have a better chance of being opened.

What do you think, will this change in delivery affect you? Please leave a comment and let us know.

If you need help getting your next mailing opened, feel free to visit us on the web at, or call us at 215.638.2679.