Wise Giving Wednesday: Building Trust Part 9

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calendar icon Jul 17, 2020

For many charities, especially the nationally soliciting charities evaluated by BBB Wise Giving Alliance, the future may belong to the Internet, but direct mail fundraising is still king.  While online giving and social media made significant strides in raising charity dollars in the philanthropic marketplace, recent statistics show that online giving accounted for just 6.4% of overall fundraising revenue in 2013, excluding grants (Blackbaud’s Charitable Giving Report). 

I raise this to build on my previous blog about our donor privacy standard (BBB WGA Standard 18). The focus here is on direct mail fundraising and how charities acquire names and addresses of people to send mail.  The majority of the nationally soliciting charities evaluated by BBB WGA state that they do not rent, exchange or share their donor mailing lists with others. If so, this provision does not apply to them.  For the rest, BBB WGA Standard 18 asks charities to periodically provide a means (such as a check-off box) for both new and continuing direct mail donors to inform the charity that they do not want their name and address shared outside the organization.  This is what those in the privacy world call the “Opt Out” option.   

Paper is derived from trees, but mailing lists don’t grow on them, they have to be developed somewhere.  So, if a charity is seeking to acquire new donors by renting lists for one-time use from a variety of outside sources, those names and addresses do not belong to the charity until they become a donor.  As a result, unless the mail recipient makes a donation, the charity can’t promise them anything about what will happen to their information.  Hence, the reason for not requiring this “opt out” provision to be in every charity mailing sent.   But, at a minimum, every single current donor must be provided the opt-out option at least annually to meet Standard 18. Of course it's preferable that this occur in all mailings to previous donors. 

It's possible for charities to adopt more restrictive donor mailing list policies.  For brand new or smaller charities seeking to build a donor base, however, renting donor mailing lists may be their only way to get direct mail donors.  If donor mailing lists were not available, they would need to find alternatives (an animal welfare charity might use a list comprised of pet product purchasers) that could result in fewer donors than a mailing list of animal charity contributors of other groups. 

The bottom line is that mailing lists, when properly used, can serve as the oxygen that help charity fundraising work.  Without them, many charities would have difficulty starting, growing or raising funds.  BBB WGA strongly believes in the importance of donor privacy protections, and Standard 18 continues to address donor concerns without impacting the ability of charities to raise funds using the mail, which continues to be the main fundraising method for charities evaluated by BBB WGA. 

We are always working with charities to publish or update reports for donors.  Visit Give.org to check out any charity before giving.  Our recently evaluated charities include:  

Finally, remember to let us know by going to https://give.org/ask-us-about-a-charity1/ if you are interested in seeing a report on a charity not on the list and we will do our best to produce one.  

H. Art Taylor, President & CEO
BBB Wise Giving Alliance

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