Charities told to improve their e-marketing habits

Charities must abide by the basic principles of transparency and consent in their electronic marketing or run the risk of legislation being brought in to control it, the Direct Marketing Association has warned.

The message comes as the association's Email Marketing Council unveils its revised best practice guidelines in an effort to raise standards. The guidelines highlight concerns with viral marketing and email-append practices.

Appending means adding additional data, such as email addresses, to existing supporter records. The revised guidelines say that fundraisers should append records only when the supporter concerned has given permission to the collector of the data for any information to be shared.

Viral marketing techniques, usually in the form of emails or text messages that supporters forward to friends and family, may cause members of the public to receive information that they have not opted to receive, and may be in breach of existing regulations. The revised guidelines say that fundraisers should contact the DMA's legal department on a case-by-case basis.

"We are trying to make sure that the channel remains open, and that new legislation isn't imposed on it," said Robert Dirskovski, head of interactive media at the DMA.

"These two areas have been subject to advances in technology and could be open to interpretation by fundraisers."

The revised guidelines, which replace those of 2004, also offer advice on how to get the most out of email marketing.

Pointers include how and why data should be kept clean, the issues involved with renting email lists and how to compare email with other media.

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