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A grave concern for UK charities

Howard Lake | 5 June 2008 | News

Karen Webster, Product Director at Mortascreen, argues that sending direct mail to deceased supporters is still a serious concern.
…Valerie is slowly getting over the death of her husband, Jeremy, last year. Some days are worse than others but she still finds it particularly hard when the postman calls and there is post on the mat addressed to him. “It might seem silly to some people, but I find it upsetting so I’ve written to companies asking them to take my husband off their lists. Often this works, but then something else turns up,” says Valerie, 45…
The above paragraph is an extract from a recent article I read in the Scottish Herald. Sadly Valerie isn’t alone. Recent figures show that a staggering 60 million items of direct mail are sent to people that have died in the UK each year.
The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) estimates that the third sector makes up 11% of the direct mail market. If this percentage applies also to deceased direct mail, that’s a staggering 6,600,000 items being mailed unnecessarily by charities. Or put another way: over £3.5 million of wasted marketing budget, a figure not to be sniffed at, particularly in today’s pressurised economic climate.
It is impossible to escape the alleged ‘credit crunch’ and as a result, exaggerated or not, marketing budgets are being reigned in. Accountability and return on investment are increasingly becoming the watch words of the year which play to the strengths of direct mail. The medium by its nature is more targeted, personalised and cost effective than it’s above the line cousins and mail volumes are expected to rise, a view shared by The Daily Telegraph’s Roland Gribben, backed by PwC and KPMG (The Daily Telegraph 30th May 2008).
It is therefore essential for budget allotted to direct mail campaigns to work as hard as possible. In its simplest form this means ensuring that as many communications as possible reach the person to whom they are addressed.
Sending mail to the deceased is not only a waste of precious budget, but it can be incredibly brand damaging, with numerous consumers saying they would not be associated with an organisation that doesn’t remove the details of deceased individuals from their databases.
According to the Financial Times (22 December 2006) even though household wealth has doubled over the last decade, donations to charity have struggled to keep pace with inflation, not to mention the increase in disposable income. And it gets worse – research by Charities Aid Foundation shows that typically 6% of donors contribute almost half of all money raised, meaning many charities are becoming increasingly dependent on a smaller group of donors that are growing older every year.
Given that mailing the deceased continues to be the number one complaint received by the Information Commissioner, charities have to ask themselves can they afford to alienate existing supporters by inadvertently targeting their deceased friends or family?
Mortascreen is the UK’s leading deceased suppression file that helps marketers identify deceased individuals within their customer and prospect databases.