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08 Dec

Member Privacy and the Well Intentioned Coupon

This week I received a mailing from a for-profit  business that was sent to the members of a nonprofit organization of which I am a member. The business is offering a special discount to the members which is very nice.  While I appreciate this offer and encourage partnering between the non and for- profit sectors, the mailing was clearly sent from the office of the for-profit business and the envelope was handwritten (which means the nonprofit didn’t give them labels).

Why does this bother me? Because I don’t recall the nonprofit ever informing its  members that they share their lists or my ever granting them permission to share my personal information for these purposes.

Either the nonprofit membership organization violated my privacy by giving their membership list to the business without my consent or the business had its own access to the membership roster and misused it for commercial purposes.

This well-intentioned idea was a loose-loose. Like all relationships, trust and respect for private information  are key between patrons and businesses and between members/donors and  nonprofits.

Best practice dictates that nonprofits should have privacy statements. If your nonprofit wants to share any personal information, first check your state privacy laws and give members and/or donors notice of you privacy practices and  an option to opt out before sharing any personal information.

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