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  • Identify everyone who has made a donation of any size in the last 18 months. They stay on the list.
  • Identify everyone who has given time or in-kind donations or advice as a volunteer in the last 18 months. They stay on the list.
  • Paying systematic attention to your mailing list ensures that you are doing proper outreach and not wasting donor money mailing information to people who don't seem to care about it.

  • Identify everyone who has given money in the last three years, but not the last 18 months and prepare a mailing for them that says, "We miss you. Please let us know if you want to stay on our list. If you don't want to stay on our mailing list, please take a moment and tell us why." Code these people as "Remove After 6 Months" and give them another six months to send their contributions or response card in. Then change the non-responders' code to "Ready To Delete".
  • Now look at every name that doesn't fall into one of these categories and decide, name by name, whether or not they should be on the list. Names you may want to leave on your list include funders, politicians, past volunteers and staff, organizations doing similar work, and people important to your group for one reason or another. The names you don't want should be coded as "Ready To Delete".
  • For everyone who isn't in any of the above categories, send a letter asking if they want to be on the mailing list, like the one you sent to lapsed donors. Code them as "Remove After 2 Months". After two months, change the non-responders' code to "Ready To Delete".
  • Six to eight months later, after the "Ready To Delete" people have missed at least two issues of your newsletter, write them one final letter, saying, "Have you missed us? We have missed you. A lot of exciting things have happened in the past six months (enumerate a few). Please join us and be part of our wonderful work." Structure this like a mail appeal. You will probably get a 1-2% response from this list. As before, remove the "Ready to Delete" code from those who do respond.
  • After the responses from the final letter that come in, delete everyone who hasn't responded to any of your mailings - everyone with a "Ready To Delete" code.

Paying systematic attention to your mailing list ensures that you are doing proper outreach and not wasting donor money mailing information to people who don't seem to care about it. This frees up money to recruit new donors and do real outreach.

This article is abridged from a longer one originally published in the Grassroots Fundraising Journal, April, 1990 and is reproduced here with permission. The full article can be accessed on the Grassroots Institute for Fundraising Training website.

Kim Klein is a fundraising consultant and founder of the Grassroots Fundraising Journal. Her deep insight into fundraising, combined with a warm, no-nonsense style have made her an international favorite. Nine of her core fundraising training seminars are available for purchase on CD from the FundRaiser Basic website.