Hot issue: Would a compulsory direct mail opt-in be bad for fundraising?

Some believe the approach of sending people mailings only if they placed their names on a direct mail register could harm fundraising. Others say it could help.

YES

Rosemary Smith, chair, Direct Marketing Association

Direct mail is a key driver of donations and donor retention. It is the most popular medium used by charities and the most common reason why high-value donors start donating.

Opt-in for direct mail would severely restrict the number of potential donors that a charity could reach. Charities are already disadvantaged under the email regulations because they must seek permission before sending emails to potential donors.

Introducing legislation would be hugely counterproductive for charities, businesses and consumers. The Direct Marketing Association, of course, supports the consumer's right to say 'no'. In addition to the legal requirement to gain consent for marketing, the DMA has voluntarily set in place mechanisms such as the mailing preference service to facilitate a general opt-out. For this reason, we will continue to advocate the preference service over legislation.

Without evidence that consumers' privacy is being abused, it is naive to suggest that charities should voluntarily sacrifice the market opportunities afforded by opt-out.

NO

Mike Parry, managing director of EmailBureau, services division of the direct marketing company Interactive Prospect Targeting

Consumers are increasingly aware of the benefits of opt-in, thanks to the increased use of online methods to interact with businesses and charities. They are, therefore, less likely to open direct marketing communications that they haven't signed up to.

It would initially be painful for the direct marketing industry and, in particular, the charity sector, but a postal opt-in would certainly benefit the industry in the long term.

Charities adopting opt-in for email marketing have seen a trend that, if replicated in their direct mail, would improve the effectiveness and reduce the cost of campaigns.

By building a relationship with people who have opted in, charities convert greater numbers into regular donors.

It is important to build relationships with those who have told you they have an interest in your charity. There is a greater return for your marketing spend if you build in lifetime value.

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