I've heard of the idea of email appending - the idea of sending your direct mail list off to a vendor in order to buy email addresses for them. It's intriguing, but as it doesn't seem like many people know about it, I wondered how useful and widespread a practice it is. So I did what I often do when I'm wondering about something in this vein: I sent my question to the smart and friendly folks on the Progressive Exchange discussion list.
And I got a lot of terrific answers! Email appending is certainly something that nonprofits are doing, and finding generally worth doing and a good bang for the buck. Here's a summary of what learned.
Folks mentioned that it can be a useful technique particularly to get a big chunk of names at once, although it's not a perfect technique - matches are not always correct, for instance (i.e. an email address may be for a different person), and depending on precisely what the vendor's doing, it may not really be an opt-in process for the matched people (several recommended starting with an email that allows them to opt-in, or at least easily opt out).
Nonprofit staff are generally seeing match rates of 10-15%, or as high as 20% for a list that's never been matched that contains mostly younger donors (just for references, all the match rates sent to me by vendors were considerably higher than those sent by nonprofit staff). Prices vary widely, from maybe $0.12 - $0.60 per matched name, depending on the size of the starting file ($0.12 would be for millions of names) and how precisely a match is defined (some, for instance only count deliverable addresses or those who opt-in for the list, while other count all addresses). Often, there's a minimum of a couple of thousand dollars.
The performance of the matched list obviously depends on the quality of the list you start with. In general people seemed to find performance okay - not amazing, but not bottom of the barrel.
In terms of vendors, FreshAddress
was mentioned by a number of people as a good provider of match services. Also mentioned: TowerData
, Astro Data Services.
Thanks as always to everyone on the Progressive Exchange list for their wisdom! Particular thanks to Mikaela King at the CDR Fundraising Group
who spent a bunch of time with me on the phone explaining the ins and outs.