Mail lists can be generated through elaborate database software or simply by entering data into an MS Excel file. At the very least, an accurate street address with city, state and zip code is required. Ideally, those four components should be in their own separate fields within the database.
In order to address a mailing to a specific person at that address, name fields must be added. Having separate fields for first, middle initial and last name offers more flexibility than entering the full name into one field. An additional name field is advisable if using a salutation is important. The mailing address on a mail piece may contain a person’s full name, yet when using a salutation, either the familiar first name or formal “Mr. & Mrs.” style salutation could be used if the correct data is part of the mail list. The more information that is built into a mail list from conception, the greater flexibility one will have in using that mail list for multiple purposes for years to come.
Fundraising and other proprietary software typically provide a means for entering a great deal of personal information. It is important when creating a mail list from such a database that all the appropriate fields are exported. Additional fields will be necessary if other forms of variable data are to be included in the mail piece such as prior or suggested giving amounts for an appeal, suggested products based on past purchases, or specifics revolving around events or locations. Moreover, it is crucial that the information being exported is accurate. If the database has not been kept up to date, money will be wasted on postage for undeliverable pieces and the risk of a recipient taking offence at inaccurate information is greater.
When more than one person is responsible for entering data into a mail list, everyone should follow the same procedure in terms of using upper & lower case, punctuation, and consistent fields for the information. For instance, is there a separate field for Apartment or Suite numbers? If so, they should be used for all entries instead of combining that information in the street address field.
In summary, the more information that can be included, in separate fields, the more versatile a mail list will be. And a key element to a successful mailing is clean, up-to-date data!