Fundraising Mailing Lists

Thinking about using fundraising mailing lists from a list broker? Here are some tips for raising more funds by increasing the size of your mailing.

Last time I checked, there were 25,000 response lists and 50,000 compiled lists currently on the market. Among all of these lists, you’ll find hundreds that work for fundraising appeals. Actually, you likely won’t find them. Locating the best names for your mailing is complicated and best left to an experienced list broker.

How Fundraising Mailing Lists Brokers Can Help

A list broker is a specialist who researches and recommends lists for you, and manages all the paperwork and other details of renting the list.

What an experienced list broker does:

  • Helps you find new lists
  • Identifies profitable segments on unlikely lists
  • Helps you create a matrix for testing your mailing against other lists
  • Negotiates the best prices for you with the list owner
  • Recommends other media (such as email) to consider testing
  • Makes sure the list gets to your letter shop on time
  • Helps you evaluate your response rates, gift income and other results
  • Manages invoicing for lists you rent

A Typical List Rental Transaction

  1. You phone a list broker that specializes in the non-profit sector
  2. You describe your organization’s mission, including what you do and who you help
  3. You describe your ideal donor (such as “female, 55 years old, married, owns home, $150,000 household income, cares about animal welfare, lives in the United States and responds to direct mail fundraising appeals from animal rights organizations”)
  4. You email the list broker a PDF sample of the direct mail package that you are going to mail to the list, and the list broker forwards it to the list owner
  5. The list owner reviews and approves your package
  6. You tell the list broker the following
    a. the selects you want, if any* many names you want to order
    c.when you will mail your piece
    d.when you need to receive the names
    e.where you want the names to be sent (your lettershop, usually)
  7. The list broker prepares your list and sends it to your lettershop or service bureau
  8. Your lettershop keys your reply device and other components so you can track the results of this mailing back to this list
  9. You mail your package to the names on the list
  10. You process each donation you receive, adding the names to your database (they are yours to keep), and flagging each new donor record to note the package and list used to acquire the donor

* – A select is a process that the list broker conducts on your behalf to choose only some names from the entire list. You might ask the broker to select names from a particular zip code, for example, and only rent you those names.

Mailing list brokers know the industry. The firms they work for have researched and tested thousands of lists. So working with a qualified mailing list broker is vital.

About the Author

Alan Sharpe is a professional fundraising letter writer, instructor, coach, author and newsletter publisher who helps non-profit organizations to raise funds, build relationships and retain loyal donors using cost-effective, compelling, creative fundraising letters. Sign up for free weekly tips like this at