DEI recommendations for mailing list guidelines

After stations' list practices exploded as a political issue, an organization of public radio fundraisers, the Development Exchange, issued this advice written by the associate director of its Center for Membership Support.

By Catherine Harvanko


The value of members acquired by mail cannot be disputed. Members acquired by mail have better first-year and multi-year renewal rates than those members acquired by on-air or telemarketing. DEI continues to strongly recommend that stations develop and maintain aggressive direct mail donor acquisition campaigns as part of a balanced fundraising strategy.

Despite the recent controversy surrounding list trades, do not stop trading your list. I recommend that you do trade your mailing list, but I caution you to be very selective about with whom you trade lists. Your list is very valuable, so guard it closely. Use of your list should be carefully controlled.

Your station may have a policy of not trading or selling its list at this time, but make sure that the actions you take now leave you room to keep your options open in case fundraising needs change in the future.

Developing your stationís list policy

If you don't have a formal station policy concerning list trades, the rental of your own list, and the lists that your organization will rent, develop that policy now, put it in writing, and share it with the entire staff at your station and your board or licensee.

Once you have a policy, make sure it is one that you would feel comfortable sharing with anyone.

Sample Draft Policy

KXYZ Station Policy on List Exchanges and Rentals

1. KXYZís mailing list will be made available only on exchange. KXYZís list is not available for rental. KXYZís list will only be exchanged with non-profit, 501(c)(3) organizations. KXYZís list will not be traded with political candidates, partisan political organizations, or organizations that spend a substantial amount of their time lobbying. The list will not be exchanged with organizations whose purpose or reputation would damage the goodwill and trust between the station and its listeners. The list will not be exchanged or rented for telemarketing or e-mail use.

2. Members will be informed in the member kit, acknowledgement package, and monthly newsletter about how they can prevent their name from being traded.

3. The underwriting department may not offer use of the membership list without the prior consent of the person responsible for membership, the Development Director, and a senior management staff member.

4. The Development Director should review the membership list for station constituencies that may be inappropriate to trade. When list trades are performed, names will be traded on a name-per-name basis for a one-time use only. The Development Director reserves the right to review and approve the mailpiece prior to agreeing to the trade, and changes cannot be made to the mailpiece without getting approval. The organization using KXYZís list cannot disclose in any way the source of the names. Each list trade must be accompanied by a signed letter of agreement.

5. Each time the person responsible for membership negotiates a list trade, the Development Director must approve the transaction. If they are the same person, or if the Development Director wishes to approve a questionable exchange, a member of senior management must be consulted.

6. Any member not wanting their name exchanged, and names not appropriate for trading shall be coded in the database as "do not exchange".

7. This list trade policy will be reviewed by the person responsible for membership, the Development Director, and a member of senior management on a yearly basis.

8. List exchanges will comply with all federal and state laws pertaining to the use of mailing lists by non-profit organizations. Furthermore, list exchanges will comply with all regulations issued by appropriate agencies, such as the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

9. When renting outside mailing lists, KXYZ will not rent or buy names from political candidates, partisan political organizations, or organizations that spend a substantial amount of their time lobbying. Lists will not be rented from organizations whose purpose or reputation would damage the goodwill and trust between the station and its listeners.

10. If KXYZ does not allow an organization to underwrite, KXYZ will not exchange names with or rent names from that organization.

How to work with a list broker

Someone at your station should be assigned to be in charge of the relationship with the list broker. If renting or exchanging of the list is handled by a list broker, a station should impose restrictions on the kinds of parties to whom the list may be rented. Again, the station should retain the ability to deny use of the list to anyone who could either cause the station to violate IRS requirements, or who, in the stationís judgment, would harm its reputation. All list exchanges and rentals must be approved in advance. Brokers should be bound in writing to comply with the stationís list trade policy.

Your list broker should provide to you on a regular basis a report that includes an update on the usage of your list and list trade balances. Read this report and monitor activities closely.

How to trade mailing lists

For each list trade and rental transaction, use a List Exchange Agreement and a Mailing List Trade Request Form.

Sample List Exchange Agreement for (LIST OWNER):

Upon approval of the mail date, mail sample, and signature below, (MAILER) agrees to following conditions:

1. The (LIST OWNER) is exchanging its list with (MAILER) on a one-name for one-name basis.

2.(MAILER) agrees that it will not disclose, transfer, duplicate, reproduce, or retain any portion of the list in any form or manner, nor permit any third party, agent, employee, or contractor and their respective agents and employees to do so, except those who become (MAILERís) members or subscribers as a result of this mailing.

3.(MAILER) agrees that names furnished will not be used for telephone solicitation of any kind.

4.(MAILER) assures that the one-time use of the list shall be limited exclusively to the specific offer or service as described in the mailing sample submitted in conjunction with this Agreement. (LIST OWNER) shall have the ability to withhold permission for any reason it deems appropriate. (MAILER) is allowed to use the list for a single mailing only.

5.(MAILER) may not enhance their house file or any other file by using the names, addresses, or any other information, whether specific or inferred, from the list-owner list. Retention of the list-owner list for coding enhancements, analysis, or any other purpose is prohibited.

6.(MAILER) agrees to indemnify and hold harmless the (LIST OWNER) from any and all claims, damages, losses or expenses including attorneyís fees, however incurred, which are occasioned by the use of the list.

7. It is understood and agreed that the list has been and will be monitored to prevent improper and unauthorized use. The (MAILER) may not employ any method to detect decoy names or alter or eliminate decoys.

8.(MAILER) agrees not to disclose the origin of the list, for any reason or in any manner. We request that you refer anyone who does not wish to receive direct mail to call or write the Direct Marketing Association at 212-768-7277, Mail Preference Service, PO Box 9008, Farmingdale, NY 11735.


(MAILER) Authorized Signature

Date __________________________

Use the following Mailing List Trade Request Form to request the use of another non-profitís mailing list.


Request made by: Joe Smith, Membership Manager, WXYZ (612) 666-8888
Address: 123 Main Street, Anytown, NM 60006

List request: All active members giving at least $35 in the past 12 months

Number of names: 21,000

Zip Codes: 55101-55403; 55406-55407

Date needed: May 1, 1999

List format: Include title, name and address fields. Output on diskette. Label diskette "Names for WAAA Public Radio Spring Mailing".

Definition of layout: Text-file, comma-delimited format. Include a file layout.

Mail data to: ABC List Processing Company, 567 Elm Street, Anytown, NV 60006

Contact person: Mary Brown (612) 666-7777


Date disk returned:


Catherine Harvanko
Associate Director, Center for Membership Support
1760 Scheffer Ave
St. Paul, MN 55116



To Current's home page

Related coverage: House subcommittee condemns list practices in hearing; CPB sets new rules, July 1999.

Outside link: Web site of the Development Exchange.



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