Political Deliverability is Personal

Posted by J.D. Falk 

I recently worked the door at a fundraiser for a local community organization, held at a beautiful house in Denver’s fanciest neighborhood. We four volunteers greeted many of Colorado’s wealthiest, most influential, and most charitable people, asking them to sign in and handing them their name badges. This was the kind of event where the hosts expect everyone to donate at least $100 just to come in the door.

The fundraising director explained that the sign-in form was only to ensure that they had the correct information to provide tax receipts. In most cases, these generous people had donated in the past — and thus were already in the big donor database. But if there was anything missing from the donation form, the sign-in form would provide additional ways to get in touch and clear up any questions.

Nearly everyone was fine with listing their name and home address. Many provided their phone numbers. Very few wrote down their email addresses.

Before handing back to the clipboard, some complained that they already receive too much email. As a representative of this organization, I explained that they wouldn’t be added to any additional mailing list due to this form — but it didn’t change anyone’s minds. They’ve all been burned too many times by non-profit and political fundraising campaigns that send more and more email, and never let them unsubscribe. It wasn’t anything specific to this organization, whose practices are better than average; these wealthy donors now refuse to share their email address with any organization.

I’ve had similar experiences. Just last week I got another message from a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, in whose district I used to live. I moved nearly two years ago, and keep my voter registration current, but she keeps sending me stuff. There’s no information on how to unsubscribe, even though she was a vocal supporter of CAN-SPAM. So I went to her web site on house.gov, found the contact form, and requested removal.

The form rejected me because I don’t live in her district.

Annoyed, I changed my answers on the form to reflect my old address. That wasn’t good enough, either — apparently the district lines have been re-drawn, so my old house is no longer in her district! Next time I guess I’ll have to call, though I don’t like wasting a Congressional staffer’s time with such a minor issue.

And, of course, there’s the recent flap over the White House’s email practices.

Email marketers — whether for-profit or non-profit, political or charitable or commercial — tend to follow each others’ examples. Monkey see, monkey do. So even though politicians and non-profits are exempt from CAN-SPAM — nay, because they are exempt — it’s their responsibility to set the best possible example. And it’s the responsibility of the commercial senders, who have always been three or four years ahead in terms of both technology and practices, to show them the way.

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