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New approaches to direct mail post-GDPR

New approaches to direct mail post-GDPR

There was a time when the majority of the UK’s larger charities were regularly rolling out fundraising campaigns. We’re talking pre-May 2015 and of course. Mention direct mail now and watch the tumbleweed roll past.

Understandably so. Things have changed and charities are cautious. We’re in a new regulatory landscape, legal teams are risk averse, and many newer fundraisers have never even used DM themselves. But you may be surprised at just how accepting people can be of direct mail, figures from MarketReach suggest 87% of the public trust a letter compared to 48% for email.

It’s time to bust the myth that Direct Mail is a no-go area and rediscover its potential as part of an integrated fundraising strategy. Some charities are in fact continuing to use direct mail very successfully, despite the rest of us not hearing much about it. Done well, it can be an effective and influential channel for connecting charities and supporters.

How to approach direct mail now?

So, how should charities approach direct mail in this new era? The key is to approach it as if it were a new channel, get the whole organisation behind it and be sure to get the right processes in place before you begin.

Get senior buy-in

This is essential. Previously direct mail was generally delegated to a junior team member. But it is unfair to expect someone new to a medium to know  how it works. And you need to understand it. Not just to get it working, but to handle questions from trustees or internal legal teams and to make a strong, powerful case for using it.

Plan it properly

You’ll need a well-trained, confident supporter care team in place to deal with consumer enquiries. And if you receive a request to ‘take me off your list’ you can no longer simply suppress a consumer from your own house file, or database, but you now have an obligation to inform the original source of the data.

Do your due diligence

Cold direct mail operates on the grounds of legitimate interest. It is essential to be able demonstrate that you’ve not only thought about the consumer you are contacting but also undertaken all the required steps in order to justifying the use of direct mail. If in doubt check out the ICO’s guidance for charities.

No second guessing

The crux of the GDPR is that you must have considered your use of data. Either do the work yourself to ensure you are compliant and doing what is right for your organisation, or employ a specialist in the area to help you get it right.

Be transparent

Under GDPR, you must make it crystal clear how you’re going to use people’s data, so spell this out in your privacy policy. If they believe in your cause, most people will want to help you.

Don’t be afraid of information requests. Many charities are deterred from using cold direct mail for fear of a consumer backlash. But don’t worry, most requests are from people just wanting help. Help to stop third parties contacting them and maybe even for
you to stop contacting them – in which case they aren’t really connected to your cause or may prefer a different channel. So, when they do ask, tell them the source of the data, tell them about the Mailing Preference Service (MPS), explain the difference between it and the Fundraising Preference Service (FPS) and of course add them to your stop file.

And you may receive a Subject Access Request. These can be triggered from any touch point the consumer has with your organisation or media. It’s important you have a process to handle these, so that you can quickly and easily reassure the consumer about what you know and do not know about them.

Direct mail can and does work in our modern fundraising environment. But to meet GDPR requirements, it must be taken seriously and embraced across your organisation. Work within the new parameters, keeping supporters very much front of mind. Plan it properly, do your due diligence, put processes in place for dealing with consumer requests, and it can be a useful channel in your communications and fundraising strategies: one that helps you understand and better engage people, and go on to build long-term supporter relationships.


Suzanne Lewis is Managing Director, EDM Media UK.

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