Best Practices for gathering email addresses from first time online donors
When someone makes their first online donation to your organization, do you automatically add their name to your email contact list? Someone in the TechSoup forum asked this question, which led to an interesting discussion about best practices on gathering email addresses from first time online donors.
First, consider that the reasons for an opt-in or a double opt-in on an email list:
In the case of someone making a donation, they are almost certainly going to enter in their own email address in order to receive the receipt and other donation-related communications. You can also assume that if someone donates to your organization that they are interested in what you do.
Even so, there isn’t one 'best practice' for all types of organizations. It will depend in part on the size of your organization, and possibly the culture and personality that you are trying to convey. That said, I think in general, the best practice would be to assume that when someone donates they will want to hear from you. In fact, it might even be discourteous not to communicate with them further about how their money is being used and other ongoing work that you do.
An ideal set up would be to capture contact information for the donation and then, on the same page in an easy-to-see place, put a check box with the default set to add the donor to your organization’s email list. Next to that check box, say something like "Please keep me informed of how my money is going to be used'. This allows the donor to easily opt-out, but unless they choose to do so, their address will be added to your email list.
For myself, I prefer to always be offered a choice to opt in or out when I make a donation to an organization. I never like to be added automatically to a mailing list and I also don’t like to have to search around to find out where to sign up for further communications if I am interested in receiving those. It reflects well on an organization to offer an easy way to opt-in that also provides me with an easy choice to opt-out.
One case where I would suggest not making opt-in a default would be if you have a very large organization, like the Red Cross. For this kind of organization, people often want to make a single donation, in response to a disaster, but not be ongoing donors. In that case, still offer the option to be added to your mailing list, but leave the choice unmarked so that they have to specifically select to join the mailing list.
You can read the discussion in the TechSoup forum and add your own thoughts on the topic, too!