How list swaps and joint actions are killing digital fundraising…
By Mike Nellis
I’ve been doing digital fundraising for almost a decade now, and it seems like every single day one of my clients has been approached by another campaign or organization to do what is called a list swap or joint action. Essentially, you voluntarily give up all or part of your list to acquire an equal number of email addresses from a similar-minded campaign or organization.
Sure, it’s a cheap way to build an email list, but is it the most effective?
The answer is no. The more email lists your subscribers are on, the less likely they are to see your message in their inbox or donate to your campaign. Additionally, if a portion of your email list is acquired by what we call a “bad faith actor” — a campaign or organization that sends an excessive amount of emails and uses deceptive tactics to “trick” people into donating (FINAL NOTICE to our friends at the DCCC here) — then they are less valuable to the campaign over the long run.
It has become a defacto policy at Revolution Messaging in recent years to recommend against list swaps or joint actions. We believe that your supporters should be treated with respect and dignity. They are not property to be handed off to some other entity without their consent. At Revolution Messaging, we are betting that our clients will raise more money over the long-term if we treat them less like ATM machines and more like people.
We are not alone in this idea. By doing list swaps, you put your activists, donors and general supporters at risk of being spammed by other campaigns. Remember, campaigns you do list swaps with are likely also doing list swaps with dozens of other campaigns, so you are exposing your list to significant harm.
Campaigns should value and protect their list, hold onto it and keep it safe from abuse.
Luckily, there is a better way to grow your list and foster long term engagement and fundraising success — digital acquisition through sponsored content on social media and paid petitions.
Yes, this does cost money. You will need to invest in acquisition in order to raise significant money online. With a good email fundraising program, you can see a return of 3 to 1 from acquisition campaigns, as opposed to a net negative return from campaigns that are using list swaps and joint actions. Once you have built an audience, focusing on math, targeting, testing, and optimization will only increase the value of your list behind your acquisition dollars.
Why aren’t you?
Need help building a loyal email list? Reach out to us today for acquisition help.