If you’ve been in the nonprofit industry long enough, then you surely know (or at least have a gut feeling) that purchasing your mailing list is a bad idea. If your fundraising campaigns aren’t doing too hot, or you’ve been struggling to grow your list past a certain size, the temptation to buy a "shortcut” to success can get the better of any of us.
Did you know that it is now illegal to purchase mailing lists in Canada
under the Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL)? The United States has some similar email legislation (CAN-SPAM), and the European Union rolled out its General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) to crack down on spam in May 2018.
But beyond developing a sketchy reputation, there are 4 major reasons that your organization should avoid email list sellers with a 10-foot pole.
Your Organization Can Get Caught By A Spam Trap
Big anti-spam or security organizations like Spamhaus, SURBL, and McAfee are cracking down on spam with the introduction of spam traps.
Essentially, a spam trap is a "fake” email address that never opted-in to any mailing lists and is actively monitored by these anti-spam companies. When an unsolicited email is received, that organization is immediately blocked and the email provider is usually alerted of the incident.
How do spam traps get on your own mailing list? Usually… by purchasing questionable email lists. And if your email campaigns are marked as spam one too many times, your email provider may choose to completely shut down your account
. Ouch! It’s not worth the risk.
The Subscriber Never Wanted To Hear From You In The First Place
Imagine someone you don’t know invited themselves into your home. Even worse, this person starts asking you for your money, time or personal information. The nerve, right?!
This is what you’re doing to subscribers that you purchased from a list seller without a direct opt-in. You invade their inbox without consent, and that’s hardly a way to earn trust and build loyalty with a new donor, let alone inspire them to give.
In fact, 36.4% of subscribers flagged emails as spam because they never intentionally opted-in to begin with (Technology Advice Study, 2015).
Still, you should steer clear of any list seller who claims that their subscribers explicitly opted-in. More often than not, these list sellers tricked their contacts to "receive relevant offers” through fine print, ambiguous wording, or even scan bots that capture email addresses without consent.
Your Contacts Received 27 Similar Emails In The Past Week Alone
Let’s be real: selling email lists isn’t exactly a practice known for its integrity. So if your seller is willing to sell to you on the cheap, it’s safe to assume they’re probably selling that same list to dozens of other organizations. What does this mean for your nonprofit?
When a person receives one unsolicited email, they might click on it out of sheer curiosity. But when they get dozens of unsolicited emails every day, that same person will quickly experience list fatigue and flag your emails for spam without a second glance.
You’ll Damage Your CRM With Seriously Poor Data Hygiene
Most people can recognize when they’re signing up for a sketchy email list — so what do they do? Use fake contact information, of course. Someone called "John Smith” with an email like, "firstname.lastname@example.org” might not even regularly log in to this throwaway account, let alone respond to your marketing campaign.
These are contacts you don’t want mixing in with your nonprofit’s CRM system! They will severely compromise the integrity and accuracy of your database. This brings a host of problems that are much more difficult to fix later on, such as:
- Separating legitimate contacts from invalid ones
- Wildly inaccurate email marketing analytics
- Wasting resources on campaigns targeting a non-existent audience
Purchasing an email list in the hopes that it will give your campaigns’ conversion rate a boost is tempting, since it can seem like a cheap and easy shortcut to more donors. Hopefully, this evidence has convinced you that buying email lists is never worth the risk!