A Discussion with Laurie Francis, Director, Bergen Community College Foundation
Q: Laurie, can you tell me a little bit about Bergen Community College (BCC) Foundation and what you do?
A: The BCC Foundation is a separate entity that is charged with raising funds to support student scholarships, faculty and staff development and other types of programs that will help continue the excellence in education provided by BCC. Our office reaches out to alumni and the community to raise these funds.
Q: So, you have a good amount of data considering all the alumni and donors that have given to the BCC Foundation over the years – how have you managed that data?
A: We have been a small office of only 2-3 people in the past which has made it tough to ensure all the data was up to date. When we would receive undeliverable mail back or were notified of changes in a donor we had college students help update the data. Unfortunately, we have come to realize that didn’t always happen. Earlier this year we brought somebody on board to focus on the data and make current. We just didn’t know how bad some of our data was.
Q: Can you elaborate?
A: We were somewhat novices at mailings and the data processes available, keeping our lists up to date. Earlier in the year we did a large appeal mailing to our whole database – over 26,000 names. We mailed it at non-profit rates and had an endorsement code to send any undeliverable mail back to the office. After a few weeks we received about 3 full postal trays of returned mail. We were shocked and unsure of what was going on. We reached out to Action Graphics to help explain.
Q: I can tell you it was quite a shock to us as well. What happened next?
A: Action immediately took action (no pun intended) and researched the issue. We learned these recipients had moved so long ago, they no longer were flagged in the National Change of Address (NCOA) process. We also started to understand the different data processes available that Action can provide to help ensure a cleaner list upfront. Previously, we did only one other large mailing in the past with a different vendor who apparently was unable to update and keep the data current nor provide us any feedback. This vendor did not provide us with data reports from the mailing list or discuss how they can help us keep the list more accurate.
Q: And Action did?
A: Yes. We really learned a lot very quickly about how knowledgeable Action’s staff is with mailing processes. In fact, they are the only people we have talked to who are able to discuss the data with us. Action not only helped us figure out why we had all these returns, they also provided us with a list of all the people who did move according to the NCOA data process as well as help us get a list of invalid addresses. We worked so closely with David and the team at Action I felt as if they were an extension of our office – a true partner who operates in the highest of integrity.
Q: How did the rest of the mailing go?
A: The appeal mailing has been a good success for us. Everything came out great and we are experiencing a good return, despite the issue with our “bad data”.
Q: What have you put in place to ensure this doesn’t happen again?
A: With the help of Action Graphics our eyes were opened to the dedication needed for our data. We now have a full-time person in charge of our data who daily updates the records with any updated information we receive. She also now knows what is available to her and who to turn to with help in ensuring the list is clean.
A: We are in the middle of adding a wealth reporting index to our list as well as appending ancillary alumni information into our database, enabling us to begin to target and segment our communications better. Obviously, we will again be enlisting Action’s help with our next campaign.
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© Action Graphics, 2012