Mailing to deceased? Your non profit organisation lacks best practices

Return to SenderThere is nothing worse than sending a deceased person mail. First, it stirs up emotions when a loved one receives a letter addressed to a person who has since passed. Second, it sends a message that your non-profit organisation lacks best practices. I recently posted, on LinkedIn, about the number of charities not taking the extra steps to remove deceased from their CRM/database – reactively or proactively. The post received a high number of comments. Perhaps it was a little too close to home for some.

This past month, I visited some people in the US in the state of Florida. The husband of the couple visited was the executor for an estate. Let’s call the deceased Mrs Bloggs. Mrs Bloggs has been deceased for more than five years. Yet, the household continues to receive charity mail in her name. Again, Mrs Bloggs has been deceased for more than five years.

IMG_0534What’s even worse is this household has notified the charities of her death. The couple have returned notices in the response envelopes with the response coupons. In some cases, charities have been notified 2-3 times. These same charities, and others, continue to mail to Mrs Bloggs.

The charities are risking offending the survivors, as well as their reputation through poor processes, wasted materials, and postage.

US charities have an even bigger advantage over Australian charities in that the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) exists, which is national register of deaths. When someone passes away in the US, it is a requirement the death is reported to the US government. The end result means all deaths are documented on the SSDI. US charities have access to this list to screen their database through a variety of suppliers.

In Australia, the Australian government does not yet have anything compared to the SSDI. Yet, Conexum has The Australian Bereavement Register (TABR), which is a strong product and increasing in capabilities each year. Additionally, suppliers will match your database against the Australian Direct Marketing Association (ADMA) list of deceased individuals. This list is developed via notifications sent to ADMA. Any person may document a death via the ADMA website or we may call or write ADMA direct.

Charities have a responsibility to do the following:

Reactive documentation:

  • Document notifications of death in their constituent relationship management (CRM)/database. When charities are notified of deaths from survivors:
    • Document date of notification, method of notification, and date of death.
  • Notify list brokers of deaths. Pass information to list brokers when charities are notified of deceased parties on various lists rented or received via exchange.
    • Notification to list brokers should include date charity notified by next of kin, method of notification, and date of death.

Proactive documentation:

  • Screen your non profit organisation’s CRM/database using SSDI, for US charities, or TABR, for Australian charities.
    • Screen at least one time per year. Better yet, screen prior to all major mailings.
      • Screen your CRM/database, plus any lists rented for acquisition purposes.

Acquisition Preparation

You would never rent thousands of names without deduping them against your database to ensure you were not marketing to existing donors. Take it a step further. Whenever your organisation rents or exchanges names via a list broker, ensure you de-duplicate all known deceased from your CRM/database. Save your organisation the embarrassment of mailing to known deceased people despite the fact the lists may be dirty from a broker or from a charity. Then, report deceased back to the broker to save your colleagues from embarrassment, as well.

Those of us who work for charities have been on the receiving end of the calls when people are upset because we have erroneously mailed to their deceased loved ones. If everyone takes an active role, in the New Year, in terms of deceased processing, we can vastly improve processes and ensure we decrease the number of times deceased persons are marketed.

Need help with your deceased processes? FundraisingForce assists charities globally to improve deceased processes and others. Contact us today.