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No, it’s not anyone-you-know’s Twitter feed…

It’s the rate at which donors asked to be removed from charity solicitation lists on a new UK government hotline. The full story is here.

Now, here in the good ol’ US of A, we have neither a hotline nor the regulations requiring explicit opting in to communications that the UK is now facing.

Yet there were a few things that stuck out at me, especially given cultural similarities between our two nations (we even, allegedly, speak the same language):

Nonprofits aren’t making it very easy to opt out. A rational person (always a potentially flawed assumption) will look at two alternatives to get off of a charity’s list(s): contacting the charity or contacting the government. Here, people looked at that chose and decided that contacting the government was easier.

Think about your last personal interaction with a government agency and you’ll realize how damning a statement this is (of course, my last one was with the DMV, so I might be especially wary). Part of this may be some publicity around the hotline, but in order to call the hotline, you would have to have a communication physically in your hand (or have just hung up from a call). The email, mail piece, text, or call didn’t have something that made it easy to opt out.

This is odd, considering that the person who wishes to opt out is almost certainly to be someone who doesn’t want to donate. Thus, it’s in the organization’s best interest to hear the complaint and take action to cut costs.

We can be faster about removals. Here’s a part of the Telegraph piece about the new regs:

“If an individual continues to receive direct marketing communications 28 days after a complaint, the charity can be reported to the information watchdog which can levy fines running into tens of thousands of pounds.”

Now, 28 days is glacial for phone, text, and email lists. But for mail, major US nonprofits wouldn’t be able to meet the 28-day standard. Part of this is the slooooooooowness of inexpensive nonprofit mail. But processes for pulling data and, specifically, pulling data out of mailings. I’ve gone through a few RFPs for mail vendors and never thought to ask how much notice they need to get a mailer out of the queue.

But here, in black and white, is what a similar country to ours is saying is the socially acceptable amount of time to forbear. Thus, we should take note.

These removals are a missed opportunity. My Spidey-sense says that many of these folks requesting removal are getting acquisition solicitations and thus have no relationship to the charity. However, for those where there was once a relationship, there is a strong likelihood that the relationship could have been saved. Presumably, having donated previously, these are people who would still want to receive communications as long as they could control the types, quantity, and/or means of communication. Not being to do that, however, they picked a nuclear option of no contact.

DonorVoice’s Dr. Kiki Koutmeridou has done significant research on this type. Here’s a five-minute video of her talking about how you can increase your opt ins by allowing control over quantity and means of communication:

Also, just yesterday, she released research about gaining supporter consent by allowing them to control message. She also did a webinar about this here:

So you can see that allowing donors the ability to opt out and to customize their communications easily is best for retaining those donors in the long run.

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