Last week, my neighbor sent an email to a group of almost 50 people. She asked us to donate to a specific charity in honor of a neighbor who had died because she thought it would be a nice thing to do. She wanted them all to send their checks, made out to her. She would cash them and send one large donation.
There are so many things wrong with her method! As well-meaning as she was, she now has people angry with her for several reasons. NOT because she was trying to spread generosity, but because the way she did it was so questionable.
I realized it was a good topic for our TIPS because you never want to make a similar mistake! Both her message and the mechanics were problematic. So let’s take a look.
Personal Problems Created by Her Email
To begin with, many neighbors complained that she even sent the email to begin with. Many of them (including me) didn’t know the man who died. They felt they were unfairly being put on the spot by the email. If they did donate through her, they would be inviting a similar request for each person who dies. (And, OMG, I live in a retirement community. Can you imagine?)
By making the checks out to her, they would also be losing the opportunity to take a tax deduction themselves (and she would get giant one – although with the change in the way the IRS now regards deductions, that might not be as problematic as it used to be.) Interestingly, I didn’t hear anyone question whether she would actually send the money… even though the checks were supposed to be made out to her. (?)
But beyond that, they felt that they shouldn’t have to be judged by whether they did, or did not participate. Many wanted to donate on their own. Those who didn’t know him had no interest at all.
The whole thing was just very very messy.
Business Problems Demonstrated by Her Email
But I’m a business person. And from a business point of view, I saw very different red flags from her email! They weren’t about her intentions. They were about how she was conducting the “business” of making the request.
To begin with, she put all those email addresses in either the TO or the CC of the email – yikes!
That meant that many of the recipients hit REPLY TO ALL – meaning – we ALL got those replies! I wish you could have seen my email inbox! A real mess. As business people, we can’t afford to have a random group of people REPLY TO ALL unless they are all expected to be included in the same conversation. I think that’s what raised the judgement question above.
But second, and really more important, the Amy Vanderbuilt or Emily Post of “netiquette” would be disturbed that all those email addresses were shared with all those people. That is NOT kosher.
As a business person, you are expected to protect every email address that comes your way. It’s not just about statements on your website that say you won’t share personal information. It’s about making sure that you aren’t giving out someone else’s email address unless you have their permission to do so.
Another major, more business-related problem cropped up because if you try to send “too many” emails, spam filters kick in. (“Too many” varies, so I can’t tell you how many that might be.) Many neighbors didn’t even get the email. There was a question of why some were, and some weren’t included. The woman who sent it claimed she had sent to all those folks – but ?? Now they wonder. And of course, none of them think they have a problem with email. They think she excluded them (never mind whether they did or didn’t want to actually receive the email.) They don’t understand how sending limits will assign “spam”. Too many question marks.
Now – this was a neighbor. She hasn’t made any promises to anyone. She would need to be savvy enough to know this, and since she’s not a business person, she should not be expected to know.
But you ARE a business person, and now YOU have been warned!
Here’s what you need to do instead:
If you need to send email to a large group, and they would not already know how to connect with each other, then put everyone in the BCC recipient list – blind copy them. Never take the chance of violating privacy. That reflects very poorly on you and as a business person, a professional, and you cannot afford that. Further, when you DO put them in the BCC – blind copy – it reflects every well on you that you’re aware of that convention!
Even more important – if you need to send an email to more than, say, 12-15 people, then you need to use an email program that is built for such a thing, or you’ll risk spam filters thinking you’re sending spam. Programs such as Mailchimp, or Constant Contact – there are dozens of them. Often those programs let you use smaller lists for free – and counting on their deliverability is worth the extra hassle.
Don’t be like my neighbor! Sharing email addresses is a privacy violation, and is just not kosher. Be professional enough that you protect them at all costs.
And send donations to whomever you think is worthy, too 🙂
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