Should you continue to mail to previous contributors who’ve been flagged as deceased? The answer to this question is more complex than you might think

Deceased Records

It is very important to be sensitive to the wishes of the grieving family members. If a family member has contacted your company to ask that no further mail be sent to the deceased, offer your condolences and immediately remove them from all future mailings.

You should also periodically match your file against one or more of the databases that contain reported deceased records. However, in this instance, it may not be a good idea to just remove these records from your house list. The surprising reality is that mailings to deceased individuals often have a solid response rate. Perhaps the surviving spouse wants to continue to contribute to the organizations the couple used to support together, or perhaps the record was incorrectly flagged as deceased.

Rather than removing any records flagged as deceased, it is usually a good idea to test the response you receive when mailing to this group of records. If you have not been automatically flagging such records up to this point, the easiest way to test this is to look at the results of one of your recent mailings. Was the return rate from mailing to this segment acceptable? If so, continue to mail to this group and retest periodically.

If there ceases to be a response to your mailings at some point, it is appropriate to flag these records and eliminate them from future mailings. We do not typically recommend including these records in a future donor reactivation campaign.

Best practices for rented acquisition lists are different. Since the family has no prior relationship with your organization, mailing to records flagged as deceased on one of these lists is less likely to be productive. For this reason, most of our clients automatically cleanse such names from the acquisition list. However, because you have no idea how detailed the update processes are for a rented list, you may want to also periodically test this decision.

Finally, you may want to consider testing “To the Family Of” in the beginning of the name field for records you believe are accurately flagged as deceased to which you plan to continue to mail.

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