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April 2000 Vol. 15, No. 4   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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A Letter to DAN & Dive Training — and it's not junk mail

from the April, 2000 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

If you’re a DAN member, you may have noticed a recent editorial in Alert Diver in which DAN praises itself for not releasing its list of members to any other organization. The magazine Dive Training also loves to congratulate itself for “protecting” its subscribers. PADI, NAUI — in fact all the training agencies — keep their names from other groups.

Frankly, I think this policy is awfully short sighted. You see, environmental groups that are burning the midnight oil to build their membership and expand their programs in order to protect the reefs we all love could raise a bundle of money if they were permitted to mail membership solicitations to hundreds of thousands of divers on these lists. For example, the Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL), which has an active direct mail program to sign up divers, has been refused access to these lists. Paul Humann’s Reef Environmental Education Foundation doesn’t get them, and even the Cousteau Society and the Center for Marine Conservation are shut out.

I’m proud to freely share the list of Undercurrent readers with CORAL and REEF because I support their work and think divers have a responsibility to get involved. Undercurrent subscribers have donated tens of thousands of dollars to these two groups by responding to letters from them. Skin Diver and Scuba Diver also share their names with environmental groups. In fact, CORAL just received a $25,000 donation from an individual who learned about their work through a direct mail appeal asking for $25.

Many organizations who protect their lists claim they want to protect the privacy of their members or subscribers. But, really, the right to be free from unsolicited mail was lost decades ago. Just look in your mailbox. Today, all environmental organizations and most nonprofit groups exchange or rent their names for one-time use. The Cousteau Society could not survive without names from the Sierra Club, or from Skin Diver or Scuba Diver.

Frankly, I think the privacy issue is bogus; people who don’t want their names exchanged always have the option to keep their names out of the marketplace — of the 15,000 Undercurrent subscribers, about 50 have asked us to keep their names confidential, and we do. Most groups who keep their names private think it gives them an edge in keeping their customers and marketing their own products to them. But by sharing names with select nonprofit organizations, they aren’t jeopardizing the value of their own members or readers. Rather, they are working to preserve the environment. If they share names, perhaps they will anger a few supporters, but that’s not much of a price to help raise big money for CORAL or REEF or others.

Some argue that their list will get abused or used repeatedly, but they needn’t worry. When a list is used by another organization, the process is managed by a third party, an independent computer house. Those who use another organization’s list never see the names and never handle the computer tapes that contain them. Unauthorized use is next to impossible.

Now, let me share a dirty little secret with you. Besides publishing Undercurrent, I’ve been in the direct-mail fundraising business for more than two decades, working for the Cousteau Society, Common Cause, the Wildlife Conservation Society, the American Lung Association, Children’s Hospital, Defenders of Wildlife, dozens of public television stations, and a hundred other nonprofit groups in the U.S., Canada, England, and Australia. I’ve seen environmental groups grow and thrive, increasing their annual income by millions of dollars, thanks exclusively to direct mail membership development and fundraising.

So let me call upon other members of the diving industry to come to the aid of groups like CORAL and REEF simply by letting them ask your customers for support to save our reefs and our oceans. Help our fellow divers save the reefs that we love and enjoy. You’ll get a few complaints. But take your lumps. When a few divers on your lists complain because you released their names to conservation groups, apologize, and don’t give them out again. But for every dollar you lose from a disgruntled customer — and it won’t be many — you’ll have helped raise thousands upon thousands to protect our reefs.

DAN? Dive Training? PADI? NAUI? SSI? How about giving our reefs a chance?

P.S. In a forthcoming issue, I’m going to tell you more about how CORAL, REEF, and others use their money. In the meantime, if you don’t want us to give your name out to these groups or other diving interests, let me know, and I won’t. Call 800-326-1896, e-mail me at BenDavison@aol.com, or write me at Undercurrent, P.O. Box 1658, Sausalito, CA 94966.

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