Acknowledging Donors Online

Dear Readers:

I have chosen two questions this week that concern, at least in part, issues about privacy.  I suggest that all of you take a brief break from the chaotic speed of fall fundraising to read Wikipedia’s description of privacy:  

For many Americans, privacy has become intertwined with security, which arguably is a more serious concern.  Certainly nonprofits have to be respectful of the privacy of their donors and hyper conscious of the security of donor information.  However, as the second question indicates, sometimes we are a little over vigilant about privacy. We even run the risk of making up stories about how our donors don’t want to be contacted in order to save ourselves from having to contact them.  Sorting out what is your anxiety about asking, what is your cultural baggage around privacy (“don’t ask about salaries”) and what is simple thoughtfulness and courtesy is more complicated that it appears and will require some conversation.  As more and more of our personal information is sold by companies like Facebook and Google, the boundaries of personal, private and secure will shift so the conversation will need to continue.  Just keep in mind that we don’t come to these conversations as a blank slate.  

Dear Kim,

Quick question on donor etiquette.  We list our individual donors in print materials, but we are wondering if doing so online is such a good idea.  What is the norm these days?

~Times:  are they a changing?

Dear Times,

A quick answer:  because names listed on the web are available to whoever goes on your site, and because of the prevalence of ‘harvesters’—people who take names from websites, aggregate and sell the data, it is no longer advisable to list donor names on your website without their explicit permission.  

Privacy has become much more of a concern, especially as we seem to have less and less of it, so many nonprofits are also seeking permission to list donor names anywhere.  With your print materials, I suggest doing this as an opt-out—“We would really like to include your name in our donor list.  It helps show how strong we are and is a small way to say thank you.  However, if you would rather not have your name listed, please check here.”