PMA Consulting, LLC

Mailing Lists: To Buy or Not To Buy?

The objective with any direct mailing is clear – to increase revenue [donations], but the principles for an effective direct mail fundraising campaign are fundamentally different from that of your average consumer mailing.

You can utilize tricks, diversions and quick tips to increase your visibility but ultimately any fundraising success is based on your ability to leverage a prospective donor list that has been scrubbed, updated, sorted and refined. The difference between an “average” and “outstanding” direct mail fundraising effort is the acquisition and/or development of a list that demonstrates organizational connectivity with the following:

  1. Those whose lives have been touched directly by the organization.
  2. Those not necessarily touched by the organization, but who are impressed by its work.
  3. Those whose goals, interests, and ideals fundamentally align with the organization’s mission, objectives and values.

An organization must ask itself, “While we can buy a list, can we really buy donors?” Before the purchase of any direct mailing list, ponder the challenges below:

  • List fatigue – have individuals on the list been inundated with requests to the point of little to no longer responding?
  • List quality – does the list contain individuals who would typically connect with your organization, or is it just a random collection of names?
  • Permission – what permissions are included in the list? Direct mail? Email? What is your organization able to do and not do with the list?
  • Legal and ISP issues – what are the legal ramifications should an issue come up? How will the nonprofit react?

Regardless of whether or not you determine that an effective donor list can be bought, an inescapable truth remains: a consumer mailing becomes an effective direct mail fundraising campaign only if and when you establish connectivity (a.k.a. – don’t skimp on the relationship building).