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Stop SPAMMING your supporters with planned giving e-newsletters

Wiz-bang tech?

I was talking to a fundraiser and he said, “We’ve got this cool system that includes pre-written estate planning e-newsletters I can send to my list whenever I want.”

So I asked, “Did the people on the list opt-in to receive the e-newsletter?”

“They are donors,” he replied.

So I asked again, “But did they opt-in to receive the e-newsletter?”

“Well, they opted-in when they donated…. I think,” he responded.

No they didn’t!

Folks, just because someone signed up to run a 5k, get email updates, or even if they donated, it doesn’t mean they also wanted to get your snazzy, jargon-laden planned giving e-newsletter every month.

Ask yourself this simple question.  

Do I have prior explicit and verifiable permission (opt-in) from the recipient to send them this email/content? 

If you don’t, then you’re just plain being rude.

Think of it this way: Are you ever thrilled to receive an email you didn’t explicitly request? Surely the answer is, “NO!” So why would you send your supporters (the people who pay your salary) e-newsletters on a topic they didn’t request?

It’s spam! Plain and simple!

Sure, you can dance around the word and twist yourself into a pretzel explaining that you are not a spammer. You might even say, “But I’m sending good information and they like our organization.”


If you are sending unsolicited email, that’s spam. What matters is only whether or not they explicitly gave you permission to send the information to them.

Email communications absent permission is spam, plain and simple (even if it’s legal).

So, be nice. Be respectful. Stop spamming your supporters.  


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  1. Art Stine June 29, 2018 Reply

    OPT IN – This is SO important. I agree that we need to make sure that what we are sending is “okay” with our donors. I even question myself when I use a donor’s email to make an appointment when they have opted out of email. Unless I have had the conversation with a specific donor to use email as a communication channel, I tend not to in the one on one case. Overall, though, I do not email blast donors who have opted out of email entirely. I think that offering the e-newsletter quarterly has value, but I believe that have the opt-out option should be clearly stated in the first one that they receive and have the option on each e-newsletter sent out.

  2. Beth Hershenhart July 2, 2018 Reply

    This advice is spot on, Greg! Thank you for sharing, Sadly, right now all aspects of development is quite the opposite of donor-centric. And boy oh boy do we need to change what we are doing. We are turning off donors in droves.

    • Author
      Greg Warner July 2, 2018 Reply

      Agreed Beth. I think a ‘day of reckoning’ is upon us.

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