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Care2 Team 6 min read

Are nonprofits aware of the dangers of email co-ops?

A recent MSN.com article is calling attention to a serious potential risk for charities and nonprofit organizations.

In “Nonprofits, beware the hidden dangers of email co-ops”, Jake Smiths highlights problematic issues with the email co-op acquisition method.

This echoes advice from an icon in fundraising circles, Roger Craver, whose prescient perspective from a couple of years ago predicted the danger these so-called co-ops present to fundraisers

What is an email co-op?

Email co-ops pool donor data and email lists from multiple charitable organizations or action groups. Participating groups can then market themselves to new potential donors and list members who have not previously signed-up to hear from them. 

The main risks of this method:

  1. Blacklisting & Security Risks: Email co-ops often involve sharing email lists with third parties you don’t know. This can result in your organization being blacklisted due to spam complaints. Sharing data may also expose your organization’s sensitive donor information to unauthorized access and potential breaches.

  2. Reputation Damage: Misuse or overuse of email lists by co-op partners can lead to donor fatigue, damaging your nonprofit's reputation. Donors may perceive unexpected and increased email volume as intrusive. This lowers donor and supporter trust in charitable organizations.

  3. Legal and Compliance Issues: Sharing email lists without proper consent could lead to violations of privacy laws such as GDPR or CAN-SPAM, resulting in potential consequences or fines.

What should your charitable organization do to mitigate risk?

  1. Ask A Lot Of Questions! Before joining an email co-op, thoroughly vet potential partners. Does the co-op adhere to your country’s privacy regulations in order to protect donor information? Will participating impact your own email deliverability, particularly to Gmail and Yahoo addresses?

  2. Always Implement Strict Consent Policies: Every organization should inform list members, donors, volunteers, and advocates about how their information will be used by your cause. You should also obtain consent from supporters before sharing their email addresses with co-op partners. This helps maintain trust with your loyal list members.

  3. Monitor Donor Retention: If your list members have been added to a co-op pool, you may have no idea how frequently they are being contacted by other organizations. Make sure you are watching your retention rate to see if your list members are overwhelmed with communications and have become less responsive to your messaging.  

By focusing on these actions, nonprofits can mitigate the risks associated with email co-ops. For more detailed information, check out the full article on MSN.com.