Cover Story: Opening Their Eyes
While BSA goes through all those painstaking, manual steps to expand and maintain its network, Grossman still found mailings to donors, sometimes sizeable donors, coming back with undeliverable addresses. Those contacts were often lost to BSA forever.
"I have saved all those envelopes [that were returned with undeliverable addresses] ... I actually have them in a box put to the side," says Grossman. "It was significant. The numbers are on the envelopes, [showing how much money] they gave. On average it was $10, $20, $25. But every once in a while you see it's 'potential people'—it's $250. If someone's able to give $250, they may be able to give more. So you lose that 'potential' of what could have happened in the future."
Losing that potential was especially difficult to stomach during the recession. "With nonprofit organizations, if someone isn't working, believe me, we're the last place they're thinking about giving money to," says Grossman. The donors BSA was losing weren't always one-time givers, either. "It could be like 10-years of giving, and all of a sudden they disappear," Grossman says. "The mailing just comes back. We'd try to trace it, but ... if they were here in Chicago and they moved to Florida, that's really hard to trace. And if it's a John Smith, which John Smith is it? ... That's really hard to find."
Forced to take action by the NCOA requirement, BSA found TEC Mailing Solutions, whose MailListCleaner.com service helped Grossman perform the necessary hygiene in five minutes for $50. She was shocked that the solution would turn out to be, "very, very inexpensive!"
Which raises the question: If an NCOA update was so inexpensive, why did BSA allow so many donors to move away and out of its database in the first place?