The Truth About NCOA

ncoa processing relies on consumer action
Consumers submit Change of Address forms to USPS voluntarily. NCOA processing makes that data available to organizations like yours.


Consumers Complete COA Forms

NCOA processing identifies moves and updates addresses for the individuals, families, and businesses in your database. When you send name and address information to a provider, they run that data against the United States Postal Service database. Read more about NCOA processing here.

Consumers provide their move data to the USPS by choice - for real! USPS uses the Change of Address form to collect move data, and the form asks the following important questions:

  • Is the move temporary or permanent? (most moves are permanent)
  • On what date is your move effective?
  • Is this an Individual, Family, or Business move?
  • What's the Old Address you are moving from?
  • What's the New address you are moving to?

Individuals, families, and businesses voluntarily complete change of address forms when they move. Then they submit them to the United States Postal Service for processing. That's a good thing because it helps reduce errors as fewer people are involved in collecting the data.

The COA program exists to help mail get to the right place after a move. People complete COA forms because they want to have continuity. They want to hear from the same people and organizations, which includes you!

COA Data is Available Promptly

NCOA processing finds data very quickly after the move effective date. All service providers receive weekly updates with new address information. New address data is discover-able by NCOA services within a week of the day a consumer submits the form.

NCOA Processing Returns Voluntary Address Data

Some problems can come up for direct mailers because COA forms are voluntary. Consumers might accidentally miss-report their move information. More importantly, a number of Americans move every year and don't complete a Change of Address form. Unfortunately, that means not all moves are documented by USPS or available for NCOA service providers to distribute.

NCOA processing will catch all of the moves in your database that a consumer completed a COA form for. NCOA processing will NOT catch moves for consumers who did not complete a COA form. Because of this, even the best data managers can run into some problems when running an NCOA Process. Here are some examples:

  • Mailing only to updated addresses and still getting returned mail
  • Expecting an address update for a contact that you are sure moved, but not getting any new data back

These problems are rare, but they are frustrating. It's important to treat interactions with donors and customers as opportunities to learn more about them. Combine this strategy with regular NCOA processing to maintain the cleanest database possible. To get started, try an NCOA service like TrueNCOA's $20 per file service - sign up here!

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