Direct Mail

The Institute of Fundraising's code of best practice on the use of direct mail

The institute published its first code of practice on direct mail in May this year. It is designed to ensure that direct mail is decent, honest and transparent and helps potential supporters decide whether to donate to a cause.

The code states that charities should not include incentives that could cause guilt, shock or inconvenience to the recipient. Charities that choose to use shocking images ought to be able to justify their use, and the code advises them to print warnings on outer envelopes if such images are contained inside. Shocking images should not be printed on the envelopes of direct mail packs.

Charities should carry out reviews of past mailings to enable them to target appropriate audiences in subsequent mailings more effectively, the code says. Donors should also be allowed to choose the frequency of mailings they receive from organisations.

Questionnaires should clearly state their purpose and should not be misleading to the recipient in any way. Any questions about personal information must comply with the Data Protection Act 1998.

Organisations involved in reciprocal mailing should exchange written agreements before mailings take place.

The code also advises fundraisers to have systems in place to identify people who subscribe to suppression schemes such as the Mailing Preference Service.

In addition, all the necessary steps ought to be taken to ensure that anyone who has been notified as deceased is not mailed again and that data has been run against Mortascreen - a database of deceased people - in order to remove deceased supporters from your mailing lists and avoid unnecessary wastage of marketing resources as well as unnecessary distress for the bereaved.

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