An Ode to Sharing

December 14, 2015 - by Amy Sukol

We’ve all heard the saying, it’s better to give than receive. As fundraisers, we’d be hard-pressed to argue with that sentiment. And nowhere is that more true than when we share our donor lists with other non-profit organizations.

Over the years, I’ve heard groups cite two major reasons for not exchanging their names with like-minded groups:

Reason 1:   Donor Privacy

Reason 2:  They want to “protect” their donors from getting too many solicitations.

While these are very real concerns, there is a great deal you can do to ensure that exchanging your names doesn’t compromise your donors’ privacy or your fundraising success.

The fact is, donor privacy should be a concern for all of us. And there are many excellent ways to be sensitive to the preferences of our donors while still making your list available for exchange. These include:

  1. Providing your donors with the opportunity (at least twice per year) to opt out of having their name exchanged.

  2. Updating your exchange file no less than quarterly so those preferences are respected.

  3. Educating your donor services staff to help donors who receive unwanted mail.

  4. Running all of your acquisition lists against the DMA Do Not Mail list so you respect the rights of donors to other groups who don’t want to get mail.

The DMA has guidelines for donor privacy and respecting donor preferences — adopt them! On the other hand, if your organization is concerned about protecting your donors from getting solicitations that may lead those donors to give less to you, then there are many ways to do that.

It’s important to remember that if you acquired your donors by renting names from other organizations, those same names are being provided on rental and exchange to organizations just like yours. And, for the most part, those organizations are turning around and exchanging those names to others.

So even if you don’t provide your donors for exchange, these same people are, in all likelihood, still being mailed by other organizations — the only problem is that your organization doesn’t reap any of the benefits.

The fact is, there are real benefits to your organization and to your fellow mailers when you exchange with care:

Benefit 1: You will save a ton of money in acquisition costs, leaving you with more money to fund your mission.

The cost to exchange a list is $12 for a thousand names. The cost to rent a list is anywhere from $85 to $125 for a thousand names. Add to that the nonreciprocal fees that many groups are leveraging on those who don’t rent or exchange and those costs really add up. Unfortunately, the real losers are the people, animals and causes you represent.

Benefit 2: Many of the best lists are only available on exchange.

You are cutting yourself off from excellent lists at a great price because you won’t exchange — something to think about!

Benefit 3: The more a donor gives through the mail, the more they give through the mail.

While that may seem counterintuitive, it is, nonetheless, true. Direct mail donors are a special breed. As long as you exchange with care, giving your donors a chance to flex their philanthropic muscle with other groups will generally make them more responsive to you as well.

Benefit 4: You can control the names you exchange.

Deciding to exchange your names, doesn’t mean giving every other group the keys to the castle. You can decide which donors to exchange, when to make those names available and to whom. Most groups only exchange donors with gifts under $100. You don’t have to grant permission to a group who is mailing your donors at the same time you are. And you can review the package the group will be sending to your donors, to ensure that it is not something that would be offensive to them.

Most importantly, when people have the opportunity to donate to organizations that benefit the world, all boats rise. So in this season of sharing … think about sharing your names. And best wishes for your most successful year-end fundraising ever! 

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