6 Ideas for Dealing With 'Take Me Off Your List' Requests
While nonprofit organizations have many assets, the list of donors to the organization is near or at the top of the list in terms of its value. We jealously guard our donor lists because they're not just names; they are people who have enough of a personal connection to us to have made donations — once, or over and over.
That's why we dread the call, letter or email (or, worst of all, the personal confrontation) when a donor says, "Take me off your mailing list!" That hurts, and it can hurt the bottom line if too many donors make an exodus, as can happen if there is a public relations disaster that calls the wrong kind of attention to the cause. But the one-off requests, over time, can be just as insidious.
How do you handle these requests to be removed from the list? This may surprise some of you, but, "Duh! We remove them!" isn't always the right answer. Given that your donor file is so valuable, a well-thought-out strategy is needed for responding in a way that both honors the donor's intent and safeguards your asset.
Have a policy — in writing — for handling requests
Depending on the size of your organization, one or many people may be responsible for processing requests to be removed from the mailing list. Everyone needs to know the policy, from the receptionist who answers the call to the CEO who gets buttonholed at a Rotary meeting. Otherwise, you risk irregular responses that can cost you income — or worse, your reputation as an organization.
Often, "Take me off your mailing list" does not really mean "take me off completely." There's more behind that statement, but the donor doesn't know your lingo so he or she resorts to a broad demand, knowing that it may be killing a fly with an Uzi but at least the job gets done. Dig a bit to learn the real problem. Does the donor dislike phone calls? Does he find your magazine too expensive or time-consuming to read? Does she dislike appeal letters because they make her feel guilty? Any of these — and many other conditions — can trigger the dreaded "Take me off your mailing list!" demand.
Pamela Barden is an independent fundraising consultant focused on direct response. You can read more of her fundraising columns here.