According to the 2018 Blackbaud Luminate Online Benchmarking Report, nonprofits inspired 18.4% of their email lists to donate. As one of the most inexpensive channels to communicate with supporters, email is relatively, quick, easy, and successful for organizations to maintain. Given its prevalence, organizations should view it through the lens of privacy. Tools like direct marketing emails are subject to federal regulations, like the CAN SPAM Act. Active in the United States, this sets standards for sending commercial emails, like fundraising appeals, and requires organizations to disclose that their email is an advertisement and offer options for recipients to unsubscribe.
Opt-Ins and Opt-Outs
In tandem with email, organizations should actively offer opt-ins and opt-outs. An opt-out is a mechanism that allows an email recipient the opportunity to refuse to receive future emails. By contrast, an opt-in is a mechanism that results in explicit consent from a supporter to directly email them.
Alongside opt-ins, some organizations may choose or be required to implement a double opt-in. Like a single opt-in, this begins when an individual submits an indication that he or she would like to receive a communication from an organization, like by signing up for a newsletter on your website. However, rather than being added to a list, the individual receives a confirmation email with a link, and is added to a mailing list upon clicking the link.
Many organizations try to make it as easy as possible for supporters to keep in touch. While opt-ins and opt-outs require an additional step or two, they can help identify the individuals most interested in learning about your work, and the right stewardship could turn these subscribers into supporters.
Platforms like Facebook and Instagram put followers in the driver’s seat of their social media experience. Unlike a newsletter, users don’t need to enter personal data to receive information about an organization. Instead, they simply follow or like a page, and unlike or unfollow that page at any time. By signing up for a personal account, users accept the terms and conditions of the platform, thereby consenting to data use within it.
Unlike emails, social media provides a clearer term of consent that is user-oriented and adds no additional legwork for an organization to segment between subscribers and the unsubscribed. While this should provide some relief, it doesn’t give an organization free reign to collect data from their social platforms. Particularly for organizations subject to the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, you may be required to gain your followers’ consent if you were to export that data for other uses, like for prospecting or inputting into a constituent records management (CRM) system.
If you use social media platforms, you might consider implementing a social media policy for your team. Covering topics from brand standards to employee use, this offers a set of guidelines that employees should use to communicate your mission while engaging with clients, prospects, donors, and followers. Like your subscriber lists, growing your social media presence signifies that your brand and mission are resonating people.
Used mindfully, a social media policy can bring clarity to your staff around the content that is not only on-brand but also on-par with your data and privacy standards.
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