Marketing & Communications Centre > Marketing Essentials > Help Sheets > The Advantages and Challenges of Creating Your Own List

The Advantages and Challenges of Creating Your Own List

Creating your own database is something all community groups and not-for-profits need to do – to survive, and then to grow and prosper.

Your database list is one of the most valuable resources in your organisation. It is the key to effectively communicating with your "people", recruiting new members; attracting donations and ensuring information about your group get into the right hands.

Simply put, without a list of contacts, a community group ends up lurching around in the dark, wasting valuable time and resources on aimless marketing.

While groups are able to purchase access to lists, this should be seen only as a supplementary or additional option to creating one. Continuous work on improving the size and quality of your own database is the best way to maximise results and provide long-term benefits to your organisation.

Creating your own list for use in direct mail-outs is a big task, so it is important for community groups, organisations and not-for-profits to make sure it is well used and well maintained.

Advantages of Creating Your Own List

  • It saves money.
Renting or buying a list from a list broker isn't cheap, and spending some of your organisation's hard-earned on doing so needs serious consideration.

By constantly building your own list, you not only have a number of "hot" or at least "warm" prospects but you haven't had to pay for them.

  • You might already have the information.
The information might be already there for you through existing, or disparate, lists and files on your systems – and just needs to be compiled into a workable, searchable database that can be tailored to your needs.

  • It adds to the capacity of your group.
It builds the capacity of your organisation, and provides a strong resource your group can build on. By creating a database and then communicating with it, you are creating greater ties between supporters and your group.

  • Your group can use and analyse the list whenever it wants.
Your group can do your own analysis of your own list, dividing it, targeting and segmenting it, without having to wait for a list broker to do so.

Also, because the list is "just there" and can be used as often as your group wants, without incurring extra costs, it is an ongoing monetary saving for you.

  • Your own "hot list".
Because you have built your list around your own group's contacts it can become the hottest of "hot lists: .Knowing members of the list are interested in your organisation and its work makes it more likely they will respond to your call.

  • Satisfaction.
Building your own list and watching it work in a direct mail-out creates a great sense of achievement and satisfaction. While we talk about building a list, in reality, you are building a support base that will hopefully enable you to build beneficial long-term relationships.

  • Foot in the door.
The advantage of having created and cultivated your own list is that it lessens the need to directly "sell the group" in a direct mail-out. As those on the list already know who you are and what you do, you can concentrate your efforts more clearly on the "message" of your campaign. This may not be the case when approaching people on a list from a list broker.

Challenges of Creating Your Own List

  • Cost and Time (1).
The first cost your group made need to consider is that of time and effort. If your group is already pressed for time, this issue is a challenge. But short-term "pain" can ring long-term gain so it is worth considering how your group can find the time to create a database.

One option may be tackling it bit by bit over a month or so, or by enlisting friends, contacts, members or others to help out. Another option is to work in a community business partnership with a firm who can help you compile and organise your list. For more information on community business partnerships, Click Here.

  • Cost and Time (2).
Other cost/time-related questions your group might need to ask are:

Will the list recoup the cost in time and effort you put into it?
Will it strengthen and consolidate existing contacts?
Will it attract new donors, members, etc.?

If your first response is "not sure" then think about ways you can make sure it will cover costs in time and effort put in before you set out.

  • Frequency of use.
If you find yourself asking: "Will we use your list often enough to justify the effort of creating one?" maybe a more important question should be "Why WOULDN'T we use a list often enough to justify the effort of creating one?" 

Again, your group needs to make sure it uses the list it creates – uses it as a key resource of your organisation.

  • Size.
How big will your list get, and is your group able to manage, store and handle a list that might grow to quite a large size?

Is your computer up to the task of compiling such a list, and have you got the software? Would you need to spend money to upgrade equipment to cope with a list?

  • Upkeep.
It is no good creating a list from scratch if, in six months; it hasn't been updated and maintained.

Your group will need to set aside time every so often to update and maintain the list. If you are stretched for time, consider how you might overcome the problem and be able to keep your list.

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