The recent CAN-SPAM Act has implications for nonprofit organizations using the Internet to communicate with donors or members. But in some cases, nonprofits are exempt from the rules. How do you know if your e-mail is exempt?
According to Lindy Litrides, an expert in direct response, privacy and ethics issues and principal of Litrides and Associates in Atlanta, here are some questions that will help you understand the exemptions and whether some common fundraising and membership recruitment or renewal techniques are allowed under the exemptions:
Do you use e-mail to solicit donations or membership contributions?
If so, your organization is exempt from the rules. These are considered “relationship” or “transactional” e-mail messages. The exemption extends to communications about subscriptions, pledges and other ongoing relationships that are not primarily commercial offers a donor or member has with your organization.
What if premiums are used as an incentive to respond to a donation or membership solicitation sent via e-mail? If the premium fits within the IRS deminimus rule, you’re still exempt. Even if you attach different premiums of different values to various gift or membership levels, as long as the items follow IRS guidelines, your e-mail communication is exempt.
Is upgrading allowed?
Yes. Upgrading, when used in donation solicitations or membership recruitment or renewal appeals is allowed.
Can corporate sponsor information be included in donation or membership solicitations?
Yes, as long as there is no commercial offer made by the corporate sponsor within the e-mail message. You can, for example, include a sponsorship credit line in your e-mail message. You also can include a link to the corporate sponsor’s Web site or even to a site or page that has a sponsor’s commercial offer.
Does your organization distribute an e-newsletter that is supported by third-party advertising?
E-newsletters are considered “relationship” messages, and are allowed under the new rules, even when commercial advertisements or offers are included.
Of course, when communicating with donors or members via e-mail, common sense and courtesies should be followed. Generally accepted ethical business practices recommend that nonprofits identify themselves in the “from” line, include a subject line that is not misleading, and provide an opportunity for the recipient to opt-out of future e-mail communications.
This way, you assure that your donors and members are treated with respect, and that your messages will be welcomed in their in-boxes.
Lindy Litrides, an expert in direct response, privacy and ethics issues, is principal of Litrides and Associates In Atlanta.
Copyright © 2004 The NonProfit Times.