Address verification: why not get some help?

Discussions around using and interfacing with the Church MLS program.
jensend7
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Address verification: why not get some help?

Postby jensend7 » Sun Jun 22, 2014 9:45 am

I'm in an elders quorum presidency and have been frustrated with address problems in our ward records.

Too many addresses are entered incorrectly and don't correspond to any actual street address.

Even in cases where the address is correct the formatting is wrong in ways that confuse those trying to use the address. LDS.org Maps won't show the member in the right location and has trouble with verifying locations. We could end up with postal delays or misdelivered mail. Home teachers are confused because there is no such street as XXXX East when an address which should be XXXX East XXXX North is instead entered on the records as XXXX North XXXX East (easy enough to figure out if you have a complete grid system, but if these numbered streets are curved and broken up it gets confusing).

Unlike telephone numbers etc members have no ability to fix their own address problems directly through the LDS.org directory tool. So everything hinges on the clerk being meticulously accurate or on people begging the clerk to make it right. In a ward where people are rapidly moving in and out, if it takes weeks or months to notice and correct address problems it can cause a lot of trouble.

Why not help clerks get it right by using existing address verification and standardization solutions? From what I understand, the USPS address api is free, simple, secure, and very helpful. If the MLS computer is connected to the net when a clerk enters an address in a member record, it could check the address with the USPS and ask the clerk with "Is this the address you mean?" The clerk would have the option to use the USPS standardized address (default) or ignore it and continue with what they typed. If the USPS recognizes no such address MLS could warn the clerk to verify the address before proceeding.

It may not be quite as convenient in other nations - a quick search seems to show e.g. that Canada Post's service isn't free and Royal Mail and Australia Post, instead of providing a free service themselves, provide their address lists to private companies which provide this kind of service for a fee - but even in such cases it might be worth considering.

russellhltn
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Re: Address verification: why not get some help?

Postby russellhltn » Sun Jun 22, 2014 11:52 am

jensend7 wrote:From what I understand, the USPS address api is free, simple, secure, and very helpful.


There are restrictions on it that make it problematic. To start with, it deals with mailing addresses. So some physical addresses are not in the system.

Secondly, having gone though the process, the API is there for people who will be mailing something. It's designed for websites that will be sending something though the mail. It's not intended to be used to record an address "for our records". So there's that hurdle in getting though the application process. There are other products, but those involve money.

But you can use their website to check the addresses. I don't think there's any restriction there. But it does require the clerk to use it.
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jdlessley
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Re: Address verification: why not get some help?

Postby jdlessley » Mon Jun 23, 2014 9:27 am

jensend7 wrote:If the MLS computer is connected to the net ...

I doubt that MLS will ever be upgraded to incorporate address checking. MLS capabilities are moving online and will eventually be a secondary means of record maintenance or completely eliminated in some world areas. Leader and Clerk Resources has address checking for member records much like you are requesting. I have no idea what database is used. But it appears to closely match the results I find at the USPS site. Because Leader and Clerk Resources has some capabilities beyond MLS, such as the address comparison/correction feature, I do not use MLS to request member records or to make changes to contact or address information. Instead I use Leader and Clerk Resources.

As russellhltn has pointed out both the USPS site and Leader and Clerk Resources are useless for physical addresses that do not coincide with a mailing address. Some municipalities and counties provide online GIS capabilities to help verify physical addresses. I used such sites in the past quite successfully. But my current unit location is not in an area where the county or municipalities provide this capability.
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jensend7
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Re: Address verification: why not get some help?

Postby jensend7 » Mon Jun 23, 2014 1:58 pm

OK, I wasn't aware Leader and Clerk Resources had this kind of capability, and I'm sure neither the ward clerk nor the membership clerk are aware of it either. I'll mention it to them. Anything I can point them to that documents that this capability exists or tells them how to use it?

Though I appreciate that in other areas physical vs mailing address is more of an issue, out of all the units I've served in, including several rural ones, I've seen very few instances where someone's physical address was not also a valid mailing address, and that was years ago.

jdlessley
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Re: Address verification: why not get some help?

Postby jdlessley » Tue Jun 24, 2014 4:49 pm

jensend7 wrote:Anything I can point them to that documents that this capability exists or tells them how to use it?

All I can say is to log onto LDS.org and click Leader and Clerk Resources from the drop-down menu and explore the menu items available. The menu items available are dependent on your specific calling(s).

The items for updating membership records are found in the Membership tab. For example, a membership record can be updated by clicking on the member name and selecting 'View Member Profile'. Once on the member profile there are tabs for specific membership data groups. The first tab, 'Individual', is where the member's individual information, to include contact and address, can be edited.
JD Lessley
Have you tried finding your answer on the LDS.org Help Center page or the LDSTech wiki?

RossEvans
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Re: Address verification: why not get some help?

Postby RossEvans » Sat Jun 28, 2014 11:17 am

jdlessley wrote:
jensend7 wrote:Anything I can point them to that documents that this capability exists or tells them how to use it?

All I can say is to log onto LDS.org and click Leader and Clerk Resources from the drop-down menu and explore the menu items available. The menu items available are dependent on your specific calling(s).

The items for updating membership records are found in the Membership tab. For example, a membership record can be updated by clicking on the member name and selecting 'View Member Profile'. Once on the member profile there are tabs for specific membership data groups. The first tab, 'Individual', is where the member's individual information, to include contact and address, can be edited.


The capability built into Leader and Clerk Resources is a good start, but beware if you have apartment address. In such cases, the online "standardization" tool fails to conform to the USPS standard of appending the apartment number to the street address line.

So use it with caution, and manually edit apartment addresses. Then, when the online tool tries to undo your edit and put the apartment address on a separate line, reject the suggested reformatting and keep your own.

As for other suggestions of building a USPS API into church software, either in MLS or online, I do think the USPS terms-of-use restrictions are probably a hard stop. There are commercial solutions, however. They include SmartyStreets, which offers its API for free to nonprofits.


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