No means no

At ChangeStar, we’ve recently been doing a bit of ‘secret shopping’ with some charities – making donations to them and seeing how they communicate with us as a result.  It’s a real eye-opener and shows that lots of organisations have work to do on their communication plans – one charity has already sent us 3 identical emails since we donated just over a week ago!

Our secret shopping experience led us to a conversation in the office about emails from organisations (not just charities) and how counterproductive their efforts to gather names and email us can be.  Two main points came up in our conversation:

1. Some organisations still seem unable to take ‘no’ for an answer when sending their communications, and also fail to see the negative effects this is having on people’s participation.   By saying ‘no’ I mean failing to take people off mailing or email lists when asked to do so.  Not only does this annoy people, it may well also make them (I speak from personal experience) less likely to use the media concerned,  deal with the organisation concerned or sign up for any similar transactions in the future.

2. Some organisations seem to be seeking quantity over quality of email addresses – and this can be counter-productive for them.  For example, we signed a petition on a campaigning site and gave our email address. When we left our email address there was no opportunity to unsubscribe from future communications – which is very annoying.  Once we’d completed the petition, we got the inevitable emails from the organisation, which annoyed us further.  This has put us off taking such action with this organisation in the future – and reduces our motivation to participate with others, as we see the likelihood of this happening again.

One of the key principles of online fundraising and campaigning is to make it as easy as possible for people to undertake the transaction.  By failing to include opt outs, or just not listening to our contacts, we actually place another obstacle in front of people to responding to our cause.  Let’s make sure we remove it.

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