Managing the Use of Your List

Being able to create (or buy), grow, update and enhance your database of contacts are all important steps along the road to successful direct mail-out.

But just as important is the way your database is used, who is allowed to view it, and maintaining the integrity of the information it contains.

This means your organisation needs to not only be aware of these types of issues, but have measures in place to prevent any problems arising.

Some List-Related Issues That can Arise

  • Who has access to view the list?
Simply put, your list of contacts should not be an open book for any member of your organisation to view.

The ability to view the contents of the database should be limited only to those who need to know.

Who those people are could vary in each organisation – it could be those in charge of fundraising and donations, a membership manager, volunteer co-ordinator, media and marketing manager, for example.

But the main thing to remember is that only the nominated people in your organisation have access to the database.

  • Who has access to edit the list?
Again, there needs to be limits in your group or organisation on who can change information on your direct mail database.

Not only are there issues related to privacy on this (as discussed above) but there could also be concerns about a duplication of work – if two people make changes or additions to the list separately – or inaccuracies being introduced if "just anyone" makes changes to the list.

Once again, limiting access to just those who need to be working on the list is one solution to the problem. This leads to the next point.

  • Who has the authority to edit or change the list?
Making sure no-one accesses the list or makes changes to it while mistakenly believing they are permitted to do so is another important provision.

  • What is the list actually used for?
It might seem obvious, but knowing and defining what the list is actually used for can make it clear what it should not be used for.

  • Viewing/accessing of list by third party.
These situations should be guarded against at all costs. In no way should your list of contacts be able to be viewed by someone outside your organisation. This sort of situation can see your organisation run foul of privacy legislation.

Suggested Solutions and Precautions

There are a few steps your organisation can take to protect the integrity of the list it has – and the privacy of those on it.

Most of these precautions are relatively easy to put in place, and really should be instituted as a matter of course when you are working with direct mail lists.

  • Simply lay down the rules.
Making sure those in your group or organisation know the rules when working with your direct mail database can be a good first step. An office memorandum or notices next to computers or filing cabinets can serve as useful reminders for people in your organisation.

  • Limiting access through passwords, profiles and other security measures on your group's computers.
One of the most effective ways to stop the unauthorised viewing or editing of your contacts list is to simply limit its access to those in certain positions in your organisation and who have certain computer privileges.

This can be done by putting in place password protection, and locking people out of documents and limiting accessibility by using profiles.

There are also other ways your group can use computer security measures to stop unauthorised access and editing. Speak to your IT manager, consultant or technician for more information.

  • Other security.
If you have a hard copy of your list, store it securely – and preferably under lock and key in a filing cabinet.

If you have a copy of your list on a disc, again, store it securely.

  • Limiting access by keeping the list on a floppy disc or CD.
Another option is to just keep a copy of your list on disc or CD, with access to the disc limited to only a few group members.

It should be made clear that the disc is not to be copied or circulated under any circumstances.

  • Banning any unauthorised printing or copying of the list, or even putting in place a blanket ban on any list printing or copying.
Make it clear to group members that these practices are banned, with penalties or punishments in place for those who knowingly break these rules.

Generally speaking, treat your list like it contains the secret of KFC's herbs and spices..

Not only is it one of the most important documents your organisation has, but it should be one of the most private and respected.

Those on the list have trusted your organisation with their private details – your group needs to reciprocate that trust. If it does not, not only could it fall into legal trouble, but it could lose the trust of the public – something which may never be overcome.


Be aware of privacy rules and regulations. For more information on them, Clicking Here.