I consider Doctors without Borders fundraising pros. They're big, they're international, and they're well-branded. People know them, so they must have a top-notch and super-experienced development team. These are people I want to learn from.
Their donation page is lovely. One page, Short and effective pitch to the left and the majority of the page is the form. They did ask one question I've never seen:
I wonder why Doctors without Borders added this question? How many donors will go out of their way to check a box that allows them to sell their names? They don't even pre-check the box.
I'm going to be honest here. I've never liked the practice of selling names. It just doesn't seem worth the return on investment. Sure, you get a little money but at what expense? Donors get annoyed and paper is wasted on mailings to people who never wanted them in the first place.
I used to work for an organization that did acquisition direct mail. We would buy lists of people from other non-profits, magazines, trade groups, and other organizations and send them our pitch for money.
You probably get these letters. Asks for money from non-profits you've never donated to. You wonder how you got on their list. Who sold your name?
Should I really be so opposed to this practice?
Fundraising is really just about giving people a choice to make a donation. Direct mail does just that. I once gave a donation to an organization I've never given to before because I was really moved by their appeal letter. I wouldn't have given if it weren't for the direct mail piece and the selling of my name.
Direct mail firms, organizations, and/or list brokers really should keep track of the number of times someone has been asked to give and hasn't responded. They shouldn't mail to those people after a few tries -- it's a waste of money and it annoys the recipient.
To Sell or Not to Sell?
I prefer the Doctor's without Borders approach to that of many other organizations, which don't give their donors an easy opt-out/opt-in to sell their contact info to a list broker. I'm not convinced their opt-in approach will garner many willing recipients or raise much money, but at least they are giving their donors a choice rather than selling their names to brokers without their knowledge. It would be interesting to see if the data shows that the Doctor's without Borders names have a greater return on investment for the organizations that purchase them, and in turn, increasing the value of that list. This could be a win-win-win approach -- for Doctor's without Borders, the organization that buys their names, and the donors that discover new organizations to support.