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Create a more powerful database

Originally published: March 2018

GDPR: four letters that continue to send shivers down the spines of charity staff across the country.

For fundraising and marketing teams, the General Data Protection Regulation — taking effect on 25 May 2018 across the EU, including the UK — causes particular concern and confusion, especially when it comes to email communication with donors and supporters.

But the new regulations needn’t mean the end of your charity’s email marketing. Rather, they offer an opportunity to refresh and revive your database. Here are our five steps to growing your email database in a way that will keep both your marketing team and the Information Commissioner happy.

Step one: Clean up your database

Start by giving your database a dusting down by clearing out any duplicate contacts and out-of-date email addresses.

Auditing your email database in this way is the first step to ensuring your charity’s email communications are efficient, effective and — most importantly — GDPR-compliant. The new regulations expect your database to include only contacts that are accurate, up-to-date and of those who have actively consented to hear from you.

It may seem counterintuitive to remove contacts from your database when trying to grow your list. But the benefits are clear: you’ll end up with relevant contacts who are more likely to engage with and share your content.

Step two: Re-engage email contacts

Improve your email database by turning your existing subscribers into engaged ambassadors.

Since you’ll have to talk to your supporters about GDPR, use the opportunity to reignite relationships. Consider launching an email campaign that asks your contacts to update their details and preferences on what information they would like to receive from you.

Not only will this exercise ensure that your charity complies with a vital aspect of GDPR’s new guidelines, which expect you to offer individuals choice, control and the opportunity to double opt in to communications from you.

It will also enable you to segment your email subscribers. Then you can tailor your email content so that you’re contacting each audience group only with what’s relevant to them (for example volunteering opportunities, fundraising campaigns or research updates) — increasing the likelihood of them engaging with and sharing your content with others.

Step three: Map out your ‘touch points’

Get back to basics and map out every point at which a potential supporter makes contact with your charity — both online and offline. From visiting your website, to using your services, to volunteering: are you taking every opportunity to invite supporters to keep in touch?

Once mapped out, make sure sign-up forms are available at every ‘touch point’. This can range from collecting email addresses using registration forms at offline events, to having a GDPR-friendly contact form on your website making it as easy as possible to subscribe.

Be sure to make these data capture forms GDPR compliant, and to send each new contact a welcome email to confirm their opt-in to your list. The Information Commissioner’s Office offers a handy consent checklist to make sure the data you capture complies with the regulations.

Step four: Create incentives

People are unlikely to subscribe to a mailing list just because you ask them to do so.

Create campaigns that offer potential subscribers an incentive to sign up. Think about what they would value: how-to guides or exclusive interview content with charity ambassadors or beneficiaries, for example.

The segmented mailing list developed at step two will help you to understand what type of content will be of most interest to each subscriber.

Step five: Get social

Your charity’s social media channels are critical to converting mere followers into fully-fledged supporters of your good cause.

Show your social media audiences what they’re missing out on if they’re not subscribing to your mailing list: publish snippets of premium content that requires a sign-up to access. For example, a dementia charity that Yellow Jigsaw worked with shared snippets of exclusive video interviews with people living with the condition across their website and social media channels. Clicking on the videos took viewers to a website landing page that required an email address to access the full suite of video content.

Make sure your social media posts include calls to action that encourage fans and followers to build their relationship with you, for example by linking to information and news on your website, where they can find out more about you. Make sure your website is ready to attract and capture web visitors’ contact details.

This article was reviewed by experts at ATTAIN, a digital marketing agency specialising in data management and GDPR compliance of their clients’ marketing activity.



MissionBox editorial content is offered as guidance only, and is not meant, nor should it be construed as, a replacement for certified, professional expertise.




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