Buying and renting email address lists is an unfortunately common process among associations and organizations. These are the top five reasons why you never want to obtain email addresses in any way unless directly achieved specifically by your own organization.

1) List Fatigue

The list you’re accessing has most likely been used repeatedly by a number of other organizations to solicit donations for a plethora of different causes and it’s a good bet most of the recipients are at the end of their patience. A valid and relevant email address list is a very valuable asset but only to the organization that compiled it. Anyone else using that list will find the response rates insignificant.

2) List Quality

Any list for sale that contains tens or hundreds of thousands of “quality email addresses” is most probably cobbled together from public sources, email harvesting software or outdated lists. Even if it is touted as a fundraising list, the chances that the individuals on that list donated to a cause that is even remotely close to yours are slim. Think carefully about what you’re buying. Is it possible that someone went through the time and trouble to accumulate and meticulously update a list of 100,000 email addresses that are all active, valid, responsive and engaged… and they’re going to sell it to you for $250?

3) ISP Blacklist

When your organization starts sending out messages to this entire list, you will receive hard bounces from the abandoned and non-existent email addresses and you’ll be on the way to being blacklisted from major ISPs along the web. These internet “traffic directors” have the right under U.S. law to block any emails from any sender who demonstrates behavior that fits acknowledged spamming patterns. Resending to hard bouncing email addresses is one of the prime criteria. Most of these purchased or rented lists are riddled with spamtrap and honeypot addresses that will also flag you as a spammer. Once your organization is on that spamming blacklist then none of your emails will be delivered, even if they are fully legitimate replies to direct queries!

4) Permission

Good email practices call for direct permission to your organization in order to receive a specific type of email newsletter. If you have received permission for one type and frequency of email newsletter but send another type, then you’re in violation of the permission granted. When you buy a list, the individuals on that list agreed to subscribe to an email newsletter from a particular organization that is not yours. Therefore you did not gain proper permission in any way from anyone on that list, and that leads to…

5) Legal Issues

U.S. Federal legislation requires your subscribers to be able to opt-out of any emails you’re sending, but the email legislation of most other nations demands that you receive direct and specific permission before you send anything at all. The penalties that can be imposed for ignoring these national laws can be extreme. The European Union can fine your organization approximately $8,000 for each and every email you send to a European resident that violates their regulations. Multiply that by a few thousand emails and the result can be devastating to any organization.

There is no substitute for developing your own specific list through provision of incentives to your prospects to provide clear and direct permission. Any attempts to short circuit this process usually have dire results for the organization.