This was originally posted on the No Nonprofit Spam blog on November 3rd, 2011. Hat tip to Deb Finn, who started that blog.
You work for a great org. What you do is important and meaningful. To you, it’s not just a job — it’s a mission. And it deserves funding and support from the public. I get that. But if your next logical step in that progression is to assume that I want to be on your email list, you’ve stepped over a line. It’s a line that does not invalidate your mission, or your devotion to it. But it doesn’t serve your mission, or your goal of garnering my support for it. Because I reserve my support for organizations that merit my attention, not ones that abuse it.
We live in a world where most of us wrestle with two common priority-setting challenges:
- Most of us are not Bill or Melinda Gates; we can only afford to financially support a handful of the organizations that we would like to support.
- Our inboxes are already overflowing.
I spend as little time as possible assessing unsolicited emails before I delete them or mark them as spam. It takes longer if the email is from a nonprofit, because I never assume that an NPO is deliberately spamming me, although it does, sadly, prove true on occasion. It’s time that would otherwise be spent doing a lot of things, many of them in service of the causes that I work for. Accordingly, the message that a nonprofit sends when they subscribe me to their list (without my approval) is: I am willing to set your priorities for you.
That’s not an appeal — it’s an edict.
It’s not an engagement — it’s invasive.
If their goal is to make it on my short list of organizations that I support, then the way to do that is by being the organization that pops up when I’m looking to add to my list. Those orgs have websites with solid descriptions of their work; metrics and testimonials to back it up; and good ratings with the organizations that assess non-profits. My friends and family advocate for them. They garner support by being good at what they do, as opposed to being good at getting in my face, or inbox, as the case might be.
I know that it seems like it might be less effective. And I know that we all want to be effective, because the missions we work for are critical. But I support organizations that address their missions with good strategies and tactics. Spam is not a strategy, and it’s an abhorrent tactic. And the fact that what a nonprofit is spamming is important doesn’t change the nature of it.