Suzanne Lewis sets out the crucial steps to follow if a supporter sends you a Ďstopí request
Following the news reports in June of Olive Cookeís tragic death, and the significant public outcry in response to suggestions that being inundated with charity fundraising mailings contributed, the BBCís One Show took direct action. With the aim of helping consumers to halt unwanted charity communications, it aired a special report and published a downloadable letter on its website for members of the public to print off and send to charities if they no longer wanted to hear from them.
Since then, more than 30,000 have been downloaded. The letter asks the recipient to cease all marketing communications, to remove the senderís details from any marketing lists, and to stop processing their personal data for direct marketing purposes in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998. It also asks them to do all this within 28 days of the date on the letter.
Certainly if someone wants to opt-out of receiving further communications from a charity, they must be able to do so easily. In addition however, itís important to help them understand the implications of their actions when they use this letter (or indeed contact you in a similar manner).
Furthermore, we must also ensure that we abide by best practice at all times, not just in how we respond to the letter and in how we deal with that personís data as a result of their request, but in how we treat people and use their data generally.
If you receive a One Show letter, or a general Ďstopí request, from a member of the public, follow these crucial steps:
Determine whether you know them
Be clear whether the letter is coming from an existing donor, or from a person contacted via a recent prospecting campaign. If an existing donor, check if their name is on more than one of your databases, especially if your various product databases donít talk to each other. And if you have a campaign about to drop, itís vital that you let them know if it is too late to intercept the data in that instance, but assure them that going forward they will not be contacted again.
If they have been contacted via a prospecting campaign using third-party data, be sure you notify them of the original source and assure them that you will contact the supplier to request that their name should be flagged as Ďdo not mailí. Though by nature of being a third party, you cannot guarantee this will happen.
Itís polite to acknowledge and confirm receipt of their letter in writing, in which you should say that you will not contact them again via addressed letter, phone or email and that you will cease processing their personal data. It also gives you an opportunity to ensure they are properly informed of what happens next and the wider implications of their decision.
Whatever you do, donít sell
Do not under any circumstances try to persuade them to change their mind, you should be neutral in tone and remember you are sending them an informative and administrative letter, not a marketing letter.
Explain the implications of the One Show letter
Essentially, by sending this letter to a charity, they are severing ALL contact with the organisation and they may not realise that. Be clear on this point to ensure they understand what they are asking for. If they are a prospect they will not hear from you again. If they are an existing supporter explain that not only will they stop receiving appeals through the post, but they will no longer receive any updates at all from you, including those about the programmes their donated money is being spent on and which they might in fact welcome receipt of.
Is it just you?
It might be that they want to stop receiving marketing communications from your charity in particular; or perhaps they want to stop all communications from all charities altogether. If the person is not an existing supporter, it is important to explain that their name may have been sourced through a third-party list, which may in turn be provided to other organisations in the future. You can contact the data supplier and pass on the request for the individual to be flagged as a Ďdo not mailí record but essentially this is not in your charityís control. It is worth advising the individual that if they wish to stop all charitiesí communications they should consider registering with the Governmentís suppression services Ė the Mailing Preference Service (MPS) for direct mail, and the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) for telemarketing calls.
Flag up the MPS and TPS
These two suppression services already provide a very efficient way for consumers to stop unwanted marketing communications, but are not mentioned in the One Show letter, so explain the pros and cons of using the MPS and TPS as an alternative. Their major advantage is that they are widely used, so registering on these files will dramatically reduce the overall volume of general marketing communications. However, they will not stop communications from companies or charities of which the person is already a customer or donor. They also deal only with mail and telephone communications, and from registering, it can take up to four months to see the effect.
Employ your Stop File
To ensure that you donít continue mailing the individual after receiving their request, donít simply delete the name but rather ensure you flag that person in your organisationís main database as a Ďdo not mailí record.
These flags create your own in-house Stop File, an absolute must have. Remember, data can come from many different sources, the same person might be on a list you rent for another campaign, or the same person might have signed up through several different channels or products with their name appearing in different contact lists. Ensure your Stop File is used to suppress against all data Ė in-house and third-party Ė before you complete any targeted fundraising campaign.
Always, always, always follow best practice
Over and above these steps, ensure you always follow best practice on data consent and suppression when planning and executing fundraising campaigns. Mail and telephone are currently opt-out, and all other channels opt-in. Even so, you must ensure you always offer both prospects and existing supporters a clear and easy way to opt-out of any further communications from your charity. Above all, you must also suppress and clean your files before every campaign to ensure that they are up to date and that you are not contacting people who have already asked to be left alone.
Suzanne Lewis is managing director at EDM Media UK, and sits on the DMAís Data Council and Governance Committee.