'Tis the season for nonprofits: Prepare your e-mail database for holiday fundraising

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Rita Allen
Rita Allen

Does your nonprofit have low response rates? High bounce rates? Spam complaints? Is your organization at risk of being blacklisted by major ISPs? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, consider this the season to clean your data.

What happens when you have outdated or invalid e-mail addresses in your database? For one, your e-mails will never make it into your donors' inboxes this holiday season. A once-loyal constituent won't receive your message, but they may hear from other organizations. Second, if you've reached an ISP's threshold of bounces or spam complaints, you risk being blacklisted without even knowing it.

How do those problematic e-mails get into your database in the first place? You may inadvertently be accepting registrations with unintentional typos on your Web site. Or, your house list may simply be aging, and your donors' e-mail addresses may have changed.

There are several ways you can clean and update your e-mail database before your holiday fundraising efforts begin, including list cleaning and e-mail change of address. Cleaning and updating your e-mail database are basic proactive steps you should now take to ensure your year-end e-mail fundraising campaigns reach their potential. Not only can cleaning and updating your list help you reconnect with lost donors and improve e-mail deliverability, but it can also help you avoid being blacklisted by ISPs by minimizing bounce-backs, decreasing spam complaints, and removing some potential spam traps in your database.

Now is also a good time to take preventive measures to keep invalid addresses from ever entering your database in the first place. First, carefully inspect any lists you swap, rent, or purchase. If an independent third party hasn't cleaned these lists, adding these e-mail addresses to your database may pose problems this holiday season. Second, consider implementing technology now to ensure all e-mail entries on your Web site going forward are accurate. One sophisticated, user-friendly option is real-time e-mail validation, where problematic e-mail entries are automatically flagged and corrected for the donor at the point of registration. It doesn't get much easier than that.

So, it is time to plan ahead for year-end e-mail fundraising and get your e-mail database cleaned, purged, and updated. Consider the ramifications of a list infected with problematic addresses that could jeopardize your entire holiday campaign. Maintain up-to-date, clean files so you can make the best of this holiday giving season. You'll reduce your stress and be able to focus on building lasting, valuable donor relationships this holiday season by reaching constituent when and where they prefer to be reached.

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