To thank, or not to thank
July 29, 2009 3:49 PM   Subscribe

Is it appropriate to use an email address given as a part of a donation to send a short thank you note, when the person making the donation through my website did not consent to me using their email address?

I have a small, non-commercial blog on which I have a donation button inviting friends, family, interested strangers, etc. to donate funds through PayPal to help my family cover the costs of reaching a personal/family goal. In the couple of weeks I've had the donation button up, a handful of people have donated. Some are individuals I know IRL, others are not. PayPal collects the email addresses of those who donate, and I'm sure has its own privacy policy associated with email addresses. I have NOT done any disclaimer or notification to people that I might use their email address to respond to them or in any other way, nor do I have any anonymous donation option.

I am considering sending a simple emailed thank you note to those who donate, but I am wondering whether as a matter of etiquette, this comes off odd. I have a ticker on the website through ChipIn that shows people I have received their donation. The purpose of my email would be a second acknowledgment and a brief thank you. "Good manners" says thank people for gifts, but I am just wondering if there is any reason in this particular circumstances that my thank you notes might seem spammy or intrusive, since I have not asked permission to use the email addresses. I am of course not really concerned about this for those I know IRL, more so for those who are otherwise strangers. I would not be using the email addresses to create a mailing list or for ANY other reason whatsoever.

Yes, I overthink EVERYTHING. This is anon bc the website is linked from my profile, and it therefore seemed skeevy to not anonymize the question.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (14 answers total)
No, I think would be completely appropriate. The donations are not anonymous, people like being thanked in general and you're not going to use the email addresses for anything ever again. Maybe assure them in your email that you are not going to send any mail to this address again, unless they evince interest in continuing the conversation.
posted by peacheater at 3:52 PM on July 29, 2009

It's totally okay. People know that you get their email address and/or a notification when they send you a donation. If you're super worried, make sure to bcc them all on an email or email them all individually (so they don't get each others' addresses) but I don't think people think a person sending a thank you note is likely to start spamming them.
posted by jessamyn at 4:19 PM on July 29, 2009

I donated to a blogger and only gave my addy through PayPal. She contacted me back at that email addy to thank me, and I thought it was polite and nice of her. Now we are Facebook friends, too. Yay the future.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 4:53 PM on July 29, 2009

I would not want to be contacted unless I specifically said that using my addy was ok. I am not that tech savvy that I would have assumed that PayPal gives up my email. Quite frankly, although I have never been asked nor have I given anonymously on the internet, I am one step farther away from doing so now that I know PayPal does this.

You sound sincere in your statement that you have no intention of using this for anything, but you are telling us that, not the donor. Are you going to say that in the thank you email? I would post a blanket and effusive thank you on your site near the donation button that acknowledges that some who gave are total strangers.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 5:20 PM on July 29, 2009

I would almost consider this obligatory. Typically if I pay someone money I would expect to receive a receipt/acknowledgment. Paypal may have sent something but I would also expect to receive something from the vendor.

If the payment was a donation and the ack took the form of a thank you that would be just dandy. It would be great if the ack explicitly noted that this would be the last email I'd be receiving from them. Charities are notorious for junk mail.
posted by Wood at 5:46 PM on July 29, 2009

Like Jessamyn said, do not reveal their email addresses to other people. BCC isn't really that great either, because it sometimes shows up a little weird in their emailer (like "To: undisclosed recipients".) Ideally just send them each a separate email.
posted by Wood at 5:50 PM on July 29, 2009

Yes, writing thank-you notes are still in fashion, at least where I am sitting.

As mentioned above, a PS stating that you don't plan to contact them again w/o explicit permission should smooth any ruffled feathers.
posted by froghopper at 6:17 PM on July 29, 2009

No, not appropriate in my view. I may be a bit of an old cynic, but spam (i.e. unsolicited email) in my inbox would make sure I never contributed to that cause again.
posted by muckybob at 11:37 PM on July 29, 2009

+1 for don't do it, unless the person sent a message with the donation.
posted by Solomon at 1:34 AM on July 30, 2009

I wouldn't do it either, but perhaps change the wording on your blog so that you sincerely thank them in advance for any donation.
posted by heather-b at 6:16 AM on July 30, 2009

Post the thank-you on your website, along with an update about the situation.

2 reasons:
- privacy concerns, as you mentioned;
- people don't always check the email address linked to their PayPal account. They obviously do check your website.
posted by heatherann at 6:21 AM on July 30, 2009

Oh come on guys. I'm all against spam, but a single thank-you email to donors who provided their email address when donating is absolutely ok. It's really the same thing as a business that emails a receipt to customers, except here the donors get a nice thank you note instead.

If you want, you could include a note in the email saying that you have no desire to spam them and this thank you is the only email they will receive from you as a result of donating, so they should check the blog for more updates if they are interested.
posted by zachlipton at 11:28 AM on July 30, 2009

follow-up from the OP
Wow, I am so interested reading everyone's comments! From time to time, I do a blog post along the lines of thanking everyone who has stopped in to show support and especially those who were able to make a donation, and I add a few words about how much it means to my family. Since I would rather err against sending intrusive emails, and because I already personally thank those with whom I have a pre-existing relationship/email correspondence, I think I will keep it at that for now. These answers have been SO helpful, because they show me that some people would appreciate the email, but others might not (particularly those who may have preferred to remain anonymous or did not expect PayPal would share their identity). Unless I have a good reason to think an email would be okay, I won't send it. Maybe I will even do a post explaining that to some degree. Thanks all for helping me sort out my digital etiquette!
posted by jessamyn at 3:29 PM on July 30, 2009

Oh come on guys. I'm all against spam, but a single thank-you email to donors who provided their email address when donating is absolutely ok. It's really the same thing as a business that emails a receipt to customers, except here the donors get a nice thank you note instead.

Many donors did NOT provide their email addresses willingly the question says. They only provided them because of something PayPal does and may not have known they were providing an email address.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 6:48 PM on August 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

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