Ways to Capture Data to Create a Mailing Database

Having the data upon which to build an in-house mailing database for your group's campaigns requires thought, patience and some hard work – but it is worth it.

There is a sense of satisfaction of seeing a successful direct mail-out resulting from a contact list your group has worked to compile from the ground up.

For a community group, that direct mail-out could be:
  • A membership drive to boost your group's numbers and expertise
  • Your organisation's annual major event – whatever it may be
  • An awareness campaign timed to coincide with an awareness week or month
  • A call for volunteers to help complete a certain task, or
  • A fundraising drive

Also, the work put into creating your own list goes towards building your group or organisational capacity, creating an infinitely usable resource as well as having data that will see those on the list more likely to respond to direct mail-out campaigns.

For more information on the benefits of creating your own list, refer to the help sheet: Creating a List – The Advantages and Challenges of Creating Your Own List, available at the Media & Marketing Centre.

This help sheet looks at the many ways your community group, club, charity or not-for-profit can capture its own data and build its own in-house list.

Firstly – a Word on Privacy

Before beginning your data capturing and list creation work, your group needs to be aware that there are legal constraints as to what sort of data you can collect, how you can collect it, and how you can use it.

You can find out more about Australian privacy laws here: http://www.oaic.gov.au/privacy/privacy-news

Where to Look to Create your List Through Data Capture

One way of looking at creating your list through data capture is as a series of concentric circles with your group or organisation in the middle.

The "first ring" can be viewed as the creation of your list through those closest to your organisation.

This should be the first step in your data capturing efforts - collating and gathering up the details of all your existing contacts.

Almost all groups would have at least have a file of names and contact details of members, supporters, volunteers, sponsors or (possibly) even donors.

That "file" might be on paper, on computer, on records like receipts, anywhere, but that information can provide the base for your direct mail-out list.

Some suggestions of where to look to expand your list are:
  • Existing members/contacts/donors/supporters and their families.
  • Past members.
  • Sponsors and their staff.
  • Past and present donors.
  • Anyone who receives, or has received, correspondence from your group in the past 6-12 months.
  • Past or existing newsletter recipients.
  • Volunteers who have helped you the past.
  • People who have bought goods, raffle tickets or merchandise from you recently.
  • Anyone who has attended a recent function you have staged, or even returned an RSVP to decline attendance at a function of yours.
  • Those who have recently contacted your organisation on the phone or via email with an inquiry.

Further expansion can be achieved by extending some of the time limits on your data capture – maybe you could gather the details of people who have contacted you, bought from you or attended your functions in the past two years.

Following this step, your organisation could turn its attention to gathering information or contacts of people in the "second ring" – that is, people who know your existing contacts in some way.

For example:
  • Friends of existing members or contacts.
  • Work colleagues of existing contacts.
  • Friends or family of volunteers, function attendees, newsletter recipients, raffle ticket buyers, etc.

Knowing More About Those on your Growing Direct Mail Database

As your organisation works on its direct mail list, it should not only grow in size, but in detail.

Keeping this in mind, it might be a good idea at this point for your group to ensure the information it has about contacts already listed is adequate and correct.

A suggestion would be for your group to use its next direct mail-out to capture and update data. One way might be to mail those already on your list with a short response questionnaire asking them to fill in basic details about themselves, their links with your group and any other information you might think is relevant.

If after this there are still gaps in your data, another method of filling them could be to consult other reference material – primarily the trusty phone directory – to track contacts down.

While these types of methods will not be 100% successful, they should add to the amount of – and accuracy of – the data you have.

Further Expansion of your Direct Mail List

Following your work with contacts already linked to your organisation, the next step is to look at people in "wider rings" who don't know, aren't linked or have no current contact with your group and what it does.

This can be a good time to have a look at the types of people you already have as contacts on your group's list, and possibly analyse them through tools like profiling and segmentation – on which more information can be found in help sheets by Clicking Here or Here.

Profiling and segmentation can help you find common attributes among those already on your list, and, apart from helping identify your target audience, may also guide your group to the best ways to expand your direct mail list.

More detailed information about expanding your direct mail list in this way can be found in the help sheet: Ways you can Expand Your List available at the Media & Marketing Centre.

Briefly, some suggestions on expanding your list this way are:
  • Run a story in the media about one of your projects and a number where people could request more information about what your group does.
  • A button on your website where people can sign up for a newsletter or more information about your organisation.
  • Hold a raffle, ensuring those who buy tickets fill in their contact details (although an opt-out option would be necessary for those not wanting to receive further information from you).
  • Stage a give-away or offer that people need to provide their details.
  • Organise a "sign up a friend" drive among existing members and contacts.
  • Ask people who enter your organisation's office or base if they want to be put on your mailing list. Similarly, asking people who contact you by phone or email the same question.
  • Set up a stand or stall at a local event where people can sign up for a newsletter or further information from your group.
Again, make sure you are aware of privacy restrictions and legislation. For more information on them, Click Here.