Not too long ago my son needed to pull an engine from a car. It’s a long story, but he was selling the car for parts, and he had a customer for his engine. How to get it out? Rent an engine hoist. Who would have guessed? You can rent just about anything these days – including a mailing list.
List rental – not buying – is a serious business in the direct mail world. If you’ve ever applied for a credit card, received a magazine, filled out an online survey, ordered from a paper or online catalogue or mailed in coupons for a “special offer” your name was added to a mailing list somewhere. Based on whatever transaction you initiated, someone (or some computer) has guessed that if you like that, you’ll like X, Y or Z, too. Your name, aggregated with hundreds or thousands of others who did the same as you, is its own commodity for rental – and thousands of businesses rent these lists every day.
As a nonprofit organization, why should you be interested in list rentals? Quite a few reasons, it turns out, including:
- Increasing your database with more people like you already have
- Attracting donors to new programs
- Expanding into new areas
How do you get access to these names? Through a list broker.
List brokers have an interesting place in the list rental process. A good list broker has the experience to understand exactly what you are trying to accomplish – mailing to people with a certain interest or a certain set of addresses or certain interests within a certain address zone. But there’s more. List brokers have access to a variety of lists – not just one company’s list. This way they can “mix and match” for your best results. And the best part? The services of a list broker will not cost you any more than if you bought the lists directly from the list owner. List brokers get paid a commission by the list owner, and the owners don’t change you any less if you go to them directly.
But as exciting as this is, you need to know that most contracts cover one mailing with the set of names you rent. The good part is that the people who respond with gifts become part of your database permanently.
Yes, renting lists cost money. Given the typical one to three percent response on any direct mail program, the value in the list is in repeat gifts from the donors you get. Over several years, the gifts from the new names added to your database should more than pay for the costs of the list.
Of course, I’m biased. The more lists you rent and mailings you do, the more I can provide you copy for all of those letters. But whether you use my services or do the writing in-house, list rentals can be a great way to expand your database – and fund your mission – into areas you never thought possible.