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Sending the Holiday Mail

Would you rather face the crowds on Black Friday or run your direct mail lists? As for me, both make me shudder.


In the first post, I talked about the importance of homing in on who you want to solicit and how in your holiday appeals. Assuming you have opened the Christmas gift we sent (also available here, in case you missed it), you are now dealing with pulling the lists themselves and getting ready for the mail house. This is the part that takes hours, right?


I think it goes without saying that you don’t want to pull a list from a query and send it off to the mail house without looking it over. With that in mind, here are some tips to help speed


things up while still ensuring accuracy.

  • Use Export – do not export from Query if you are using Raisers Edge! In eTapestry and LGL, also use a report to get more and better field selection.

  • ALWAYS pull in the constituent ID. The first time you don’t do that is the time you wish you had. I speak from sad experience here.

  • Once you have the list in Excel, freeze your top row and filter the entire list.

  • Filter for:

o blank addresses

o foreign postal codes

o contents in the second or third address line that should be condensed into line 1 or that might run afoul of an NCOA screen

o missing addressees or salutations, particularly for businesses

  • Sort to find:

o addressees or salutations in a wonky format (Mrs. & Mr., for example)

o duplicate addresses (If you haven’t used conditional formatting in Excel yet, now is an excellent time to learn this simple and effective tool.)

o duplicate people

  • For the anomalies you find above – very important! – don’t just change them on the list! You must fix the data in your database. If you can’t do it right now, copy and paste those rows into another spreadsheet so you can go back later and attend to your data’s health.

If you are running an e-appeal, either exclusively or in conjunction with your direct mail campaign, much of the same logic as above applies, especially searching for duplicate addresses.


We know that pulling the appeal lists is one of the hardest, most tedious, and most stressful parts of the whole holiday season for those of us who work in data. Consider all the work you do toward data hygiene a gift to yourself, one that you will be able to use long after you’ve cleaned up the last bit of tinsel.


Happy Holidays from WIST!

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