Running out of Contacts?

Interview with Emeka Ohahuru, Navigators Funding Coach, Lagos, Nigeria

Interview with Emeka Ohahuru, Navigators Funding Coach, Lagos, Nigeria

Scott Morton (Navigators International Funding Coach): You formerly had 160 on your mailing list, but you have expanded it significantly. Why—and how?

Emeka: My wife and I had recently moved to Lagos from Jos, and our budget more than doubled—we needed to increase our support base fast! But we couldn’t even come up with our Top 25 prospects.

Then, I recalled the teaching at the Fundraising School about married staff having no less than 400 contacts on their mailing list. Scary—but it made sense (200 for singles). Those on my mailing list, who hear from me regularly and have an idea of what God is doing through us, are the people God has providentially placed around us. Shouldn’t they be given the opportunity to join our support team? 

But “400” posed a challenge. Then it occurred to me to look inwards—my phone contacts, Facebook friends, outlook/email contacts – people I was already linked with. To my surprise, I had more than 700 such contacts! 

Scott: How many on your list now?

Emeka: From the 700 contacts, I selected 567 for my mailing list—mostly email addresses. I simply exported all my “Outlook” contacts to my newsletter mailing list on Mailchimp. But first, I removed those who belonged to other faiths and those I could not recall how we met. Some obliged me with their postal addresses when I asked. 

Scott: Did you tell them you were adding them to your list?

Emeka: Mailchimp has an “unsubscribe” option, so I expected that any who wished to would freely unsubscribe. Less than 10 did.

Scott: Did you receive negative feedback?

Emeka: Since they had previously received, sent or been CC’d in my Outlook mail, I didn’t feel I was unfairly invading strangers lives. I received no negative feedback except (technically) those who unsubscribed. 

However, one guy seemed angry and asked to be removed. When I investigated, I discovered his name got into my mailing list through a group email from someone else; and that third party could not place the name. I wrote the angry guy a warm apology. All okay now.

Scott: Seems easy! How much time did it take?

Emeka: Exporting my outlook contacts to Mailchimp took less than two minutes. I spent another 45 minutes looking through the list to eliminate those I considered too remote.

Scott: What have been the results financially and in other ways?

Emeka: Two made one-off gifts upon receiving our next newsletter. In the last six months, one of those I added is now an anchor donor; another has given three times so far. And a third pledged $500 over the next 12 months. And just yesterday, another asked for my account details. Less than an hour later, he sent a gift of $541! Out of the blues?

© The Navigators. Do not use without permission.

© The Navigators. Do not use without permission.

Last November, I needed to do a blitz to bridge the gap in our funding, so I sent a year-end appeal to 182 contacts who had never given but have been receiving our letters. Last December and January turned out to be two of our biggest months—ever! It is better to give 567 people an opportunity to give than 160. We never know whom God has appointed to support us.

However, I was not expecting immediate funding responses. The major benefit is that I am now cultivating the added 407 acquaintances (567 – 160 = 407) to be candidates for my Top 25 Worksheet for appeals this calendar year. I should never run out of people to appeal to!

Scott: Doesn’t a large mailing list require more data-management time? Is “data hygiene” a problem?  

Emeka: If a large mailing list is a problem, then one can safely call it a “good problem!” Better too many than too few. Besides, sending email ministry updates to all is just a click away. The challenge comes with hard-copy newsletters. With that, I have devised a system whereby a fifth of my contacts receive a hard-copy newsletter each quarter.

Scott: What advice for gospel-workers about expanding their mailing lists?

Emeka: Three suggestions: 

  • Anyone in your phone address list or Outlook contact list or among your social media contacts, has earned the right to be on your list. They can always opt out.

  • Do not fear adding people. The worst that can happen is that they will ask to be removed or will ignore your newsletters. A few have written back to comment on my newsletters. They are reading them! My newsletter is a means of advancing the gospel—recruiting funds is not the only goal!

  • Add people spontaneously whether they know about your ministry or not. As I meet people and we exchange contact details, I ask if they would like to join my mailing list. They rarely say no. I have added more than 20 this way in the last 12 months and have had the privilege of face to face appeals with three so far!