Hot issue: Should donors choose how regularly they get direct mail?

People want charities to respect their wishes and want to have a say in how often they are contacted, according to research from the Fundraising Standards Board.


John Brady, head of fundraising, Sense Scotland

That's what existing supporters seem to want. In the Fundraising Standards Board's research, both the public and existing supporters gave a resounding 'yes': 77 per cent of existing supporters said they would like to be asked how often they wished to be contacted by their chosen charities, and 63 per cent of the public said they would like to be involved in relationships with chosen charities. Donors wanted charities to respect their wishes and wanted to have more influence on the relationship.

Direct mail works, and it is not easy to find out how regularly people want to be mailed. We asked more than half of our donors how often they'd like to receive appeals from us. It didn't lead to mass removals from our database. We believed it was the right thing to ask and, more importantly, to follow through with. What's more, it didn't have a negative effect on income.

We have a duty to our beneficiaries and donors, but also - as good practitioners - not to drain the reservoir of common good that we draw from, so that other charities can do so too.


Tony Elischer, managing director, Think Consulting Solutions

We should love donors, adore them and, some- times, let them choose how often we write to them (that's 'write', not 'send mailings'). It's polite and good fundraising practice. Many of us did this before the phrase 'permission marketing' was even invented; now evidence suggests donors exercising choice will give more for longer. It's not new, just rarely implemented well.

So why do I argue 'no' - I stress, a qualified 'no' - to this question? It's because choice shouldn't be a blanket offer; it must be negotiated sensitively between charity and donor, based on trust.

On a first date, we wouldn't offer our companion the chance to go home after the starter, so let's not offer donors the chance to exit before we've shown them what a thrill they are in for. A questionable analogy, perhaps, but I promise a well-written letter can be thrilling. How often we contact donors is between us and them; it shouldn't be set in stone, nor prescribed in legislation or codes of conduct. Go too far and we can inhibit ourselves from contacting and inspiring donors at all.


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