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When you want to find new direct mail donors, where do you go? The process of donor acquisition for direct mail requires that you send out a whole lot of letters to a bunch of different people, with the expectation that a small percentage will respond. So who will you put on your mailing list?
You probably get mail from people you don't know every week. It comes in the form of advertising, coupons, direct mail requests. Where do these people get your information? The answer is that there are companies that collect information about you. They might have your home address. They might know what magazines you read regularly. They might have information about your age and ethnic background. How do they know this? They primarily rely on public records, or data that they have generated.
These companies make money with this information by selling it to marketing companies that want to discover new customers (or donors). The companies are able to sort the people by different characteristics. Say you wanted a list of 10,000 married men in their fifties. They would be able to provide you with that information.
This process is called list rental. Companies exist that will generate a list of potential donors for you to contact with your acquisition mailing. You'll want to focus your list, keeping to the geographic area that you serve, for instance.
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