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This column is published once a month by the Grassroots Institute for Fundraising Training.  For previous posts go to their website.

Dear Kim,

Quick question on donor etiquette.  We list our individual donors in print materials, but we are wondering if doing so online is such a good idea.  What is the norm these days?

~Times:  are they a changing?

Dear Times,

A quick answer:  because names listed on the web are available to whoever goes on your site, and because of the prevalence of ‘harvesters’—people who take names from websites, aggregate and sell the data, it is no longer advisable to list donor names on your website without their explicit permission.  

Privacy has become much more of a concern, especially as we seem to have less and less of it, so many nonprofits are also seeking permission to list donor names anywhere.  With your print materials, I suggest doing this as an opt-out—“We would really like to include your name in our donor list.  It helps show how strong we are and is a small way to say thank you.  However, if you would rather not have your name listed, please check here.”  



Dear Kim,

I have a multipart question.  We want to start doing thank-you calls but often don’t have donor phone numbers.

Is it creepy to get their phone number from the white pages?

Should we require a phone number on our donation page so we can capture phone numbers going forward?

~ Death by detail

Dear Detail,

I laud you for making thank you calls to your donors.  Many organizations report a higher retention rate among donors who are called, even when the call is simply a message on voicemail, than from donors who were only thanked with a paper thank you.  

As to your questions:  people who list their name with their phone number in the white pages do so in order that other people can easily reach them.  People who don’t want their name listed either don’t or use their initials.  If you can find a number in the white pages, use it.  There is nothing creepy about that.

I would not make a phone number a requirement for your donation page.  It may cause some people not to give at all.  You can ask for the number, and even note that you never give out donor numbers, but if someone doesn’t put in their number, they may be indicating they don’t want to be called.  We certainly don’t want to call people who don’t want to be called, period, the end.  

Phoning is actually becoming more popular after a long time of being very unpopular.  People get far fewer phone calls than they used to, and, with caller ID, are able to answer the phone when they want and not when they don’t.  The DO NOT CALL list has limited the number of advertising calls people receive.  I find that donors are more receptive to being called today than they were five years ago, and I encourage organizations to get on the phone when it is appropriate.  Certainly a thank you call is very appropriate.  
Good luck to all of you as you sort through the intricacies and protocols related to privacy, security, and courtesy.  

~Kim Klein