When to use NCOA and ACS Your customers and donors are constantly on the move. Whether they move cross-country or locally, updating your database is just a part of your regular routine. (It is, right?) In addition to wanting to maintain your relationship with donors and customers or cleaning your file so as not to mail to those no longer in your area, keeping a clean database is required when it comes to mailing.

In order to qualify for automation discounts, all mail files must go through the Post Office National Change Of Address (NCOA) process every three months. Prior to this policy going into effect, many organizations were only NCOAing their files once a year, or worse: relying only on more expensive and time-consuming Address Correction Services (ACS).

But is sending your file though NCOA four times a year enough? Does it mean that you no longer need to use any of the ACS options offered by the Post Office?

There is no single or simple answer to this question; among other things, it depends on the size of your file (or perhaps even your entire database, including inactives), how often you mail, and the value of the names you are mailing.

For a small organization that mails once a month or so, the mandatory quarterly NCOA update will probably provide the vast majority of address changes in a sufficiently timely manner, so there is no need for the added expense and labor of using one of the ACS options.

But for a high volume mailer, or one who mails as frequently as every week to ten days, the addition of ACS – especially with your middle-level and high-dollar donors – may well be worth it. Otherwise, you may find yourself leaving “money on the table” if several of your mailings are sent out after the donor moves but months before your next NCOA takes effect.

Still not sure what your organization should be doing? We can help you run an analysis of your file, assess the “hit” rate you have been experiencing with NCOA, and make recommendations about the most effective combination of address change services for your specific situation.