Even the cleanest data can get stale over time. Over 60 million people and businesses in the United States move each year. With that in mind, it's no wonder that the address data in your database will need to be refreshed regularly to avoid sending mail to your supporters at the wrong address.

The easiest way to keep your addresses fresh is by running an NCOA update on your data.

What is an NCOA Update?

NCOA, which stands for National Change of Address, is an automated process that will look to match the name and address data you have for your Contacts to the USPS National Change of Address file, identifying new addresses for anyone who has moved and completed a permanent change of address form with the postal service within the last 4 years. Note that not everyone who moves fills out a change of address form with the US Postal Service, but most do.

Since this process is based on data provided by the US Postal Service, NCOA updates are only applicable for US addresses. We recommend focusing primarily on household, as opposed to Organizations or Foundations, as you will typically yield a better match for household data.

What Happens When I Run an NCOA update?

To start the NCOA process, you'll need to navigate to the Data Health screen and then click on the Addresses tab.

Then, look for the Actions button on the right, click, and select "Request NCOA."

This will bring up a form that allows you to view the pricing details and configure your NCOA request.

Contact Query: To run an NCOA Update, you will need to select a saved Contact query that contains all of the records you'd like to submit to find potential address updates. As mentioned above, we recommend prioritizing records with the Contact Type "Household," as these typically yield more matches. Once you select a query, you'll see the number of Contact records included and the price quote for your NCOA update.

Bad Address Tag: Some records may be flagged as having a bad address, with no new or forwarding address identified. As part of the update process, Virtuous will add a Tag to these records so they can be excluded from mailings. If you do not have an appropriate Tag, you will first need to create one from the tags screen.

Note: Only users with Admin permissions can create new tags.

Contact Note Type: For records that do have an updated address, when Virtuous updates the address data, these updates will be tracked as Contact Notes. Select the Note Type to be used for these. We recommend creating a new custom Note Type to make it easy to query for updated records. The body of the note will say "NCOA Update: Moved/new address provided."

Address Label: When new address information is available, Virtuous will add the new address to a Contact as the Primary Address (the previous primary address will remain on the record, but will no longer be flagged as primary and will have an updated label of "Previous Address"). All addresses in Virtuous must be identified with a label (i.e., "Home," "Work," "Secret Mountain Lair."). Enter a value to be used as the label for all new addresses created as part of the NCOA update. We recommend using a label that will make it clear new addresses originated from the NCOA process (i.e., "NCOA Update mm/yyyy").

After you have selected the values for your NCOA update, click "Request NCOA" to submit your request for processing.

You will receive an invoice for for your request, and a member of the Virtuous team will contact you once your NCOA update is complete.

Do I Need to Complete a Processing Acknowledgement Form?

In order to process your request, a member of the Virtuous Custom Success team may contact you to request that you complete a Processing Acknowledgement Form (PAF) prior to completing your update. The USPS requires this form for all organizations wishing to use NCOA data to update records. You can download a copy of the form here.

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