Not to Be Indelicate, but …
Plug the holes
Chicca D’Agostino, president of Focus USA, a Hackensack, N.J.-based list firm that maintains myriad compiled files on donors, likens her job to hurtling down a highway in a big rig carrying precious cargo.
“This is how all fundraisers should view their donor files,” she says. “Your database might contain gift amounts or charitable-trust information and should be seen not just as a collection of names and addresses, but rather as a file of precious information about individuals that must be protected at all costs.”
To start, D’Agostino recommends segmenting Social Security information from the raw body of your housefile to eliminate any chance of releasing it to a list renter.
“Be sure to have a list-rental agreement signed by the end user before you ship your names,” D’Agostino says. “A list-rental agreement spells out just how your lists will be used and not be used. It references state and federal laws that must be adhered to, including the financial laws of the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act and the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act.”
[Editor’s note: For specifics, see the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act and the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act]
D’Agostino says the best way to verify a list renter’s credibility — and ultimately protect the privacy of your donors — is to read the mail piece. If your file is overlaid with demographic data and the list renter wants to rent names of high-dollar donors with children, make sure the piece doesn’t mention the child at all, especially by name.
“[Donors] are already concerned that we know too much about them,” D’Agostino says, commenting on the crucial need to afford direct-mail recipients the choice to opt-out.
Like their direct-mail brethren, online fundraisers try to allay potential donors’ privacy fears. San Francisco-based VolunteerMatch President Deborah Dinkelacker says she’s committed to protecting her users’ privacy and conveying a legitimate interest in “using technology to help build better communities through volunteerism.”