There is no magic pill that will keep your contact list free of duplicates. Even the organizations with full-time staffs are plagued with this problem.
In a past article, I wrote about DonorSnap’s live duplicate checking tool that will alert you to possible duplicates as you are entering new contacts. Although a great tool (and DonorSnap is one of the few to incorporate this feature in their software), it doesn’t help in all cases. Individuals with potentially two different last names or contacts loaded with import tools can still create duplicate records in the system.
Duplicates will always be a problem and your organization will always need to make a conscious effort to weed them out. In DonorSnap there is a duplicates report that allows you to look for duplicates by names, emails and addresses. Using mailing address can catch multiple contacts at the same household but has been of limited use. The slightest variation in spelling, spacing or abbreviations in one address compared to the other will not trigger a potential duplicate flag. West is not the same as W. and Avenue doesn’t match Ave. or street. So most duplicate addresses were never caught.
Enter the new NCOA (National Change of Address) tool available free for all DonorSnap subscribers. This tool compares your mailing addresses with those maintained by the United States Postal Service. The traditional NCOA scan is used to highlight and update the address for individuals who have moved (hence the name National Change of Address – NCOA – for the database). When run on your DonorSnap database, you will get the new addresses along with notes on invalid or potentially undeliverable addresses.
All good for cleaning up your mailing list, but how does that help the duplicate process?
One of the byproducts of an NCOA scrub is the ability to update all addresses to use the standardized USPS address (spelling, abbreviations, spacing). Once run on your database, all of your addresses will use the same format, and the duplicate address report will show you all of the duplicates. You can then review this report to find the duplicate contacts that need merging.
The NCOA database clean up is included for all DonorSnap clients and can be run annually. If you are interested in having your data scrubbed, contact the support folks at Support@DonorSnap.com. The entire process takes under an hour so you won’t have to wait long.