Skip to Main Content

If health care and medical research charities have been hitting you up for donations this holiday season, it might have something to do with your taste in wine.

Or where you buy your clothing. Or which magazines you read. Or how you spend your weekends.

It’s part of a years-old push by nonprofits like the American Cancer Society or the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation to better target their solicitation drives by renting out thousands of names of people they suspect might make good donors.

advertisement

Wealthy donors aren’t always the most responsive. In fact, it’s age (the older the better) that typically makes for a promising target, said Donna Belardi, president of the marketing firm Belardi Ostroy, which works with both nonprofit charities and the companies that sometimes rent out or exchange each other’s customer or donor lists.

Some marketing firms post information online about where nonprofits are focusing their solicitation firepower. These reports and databases don’t tell us when or how often a nonprofit has rented out a list, or what it ultimately did with those names. But they do paint a fascinating portrait of where all sorts of charities, including disease foundations, are going fishing for donations.

advertisement

Here are some of their most intriguing targets:

Women’s clothing store shoppers

Your new turtlenecks and yoga pants might help explain those solicitations you’ve been receiving. The American Cancer Society and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society each has rented out lists of J.Crew shoppers a “highly responsive” bunch, according to a February 2015 report published by Belardi Ostroy. The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation has set its sights on shoppers at the women’s apparel retailer Talbots.

And the Crohns & Colitis Foundation of America targeted shoppers at retailer Athleta, which specializes in women’s fitness apparel. That solicitation drive was for a fitness fundraiser, according to foundation spokeswoman Erin Stoeber.

Art museum-goers

They’re predominantly female, middle-aged, well-educated, and well-off. And they’re of interest to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, which has targeted members of the National Museum of Women in Arts, based in Washington D.C.

Runners, hikers, and bikers

If you like the outdoors, you’re a promising target for several health-related charities. The Muscular Dystrophy Association has rented out names of Runner’s World subscribers. The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society took an interest in Bicycling Magazine subscribers. And the American Heart Association has targeted members of the Nature Conservancy, an environmental group.

Wine drinkers

Here’s an intriguing one: the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation has targeted subscribers to the Wine Enthusiast catalog, according to marketing material reviewed last week which described the subscribers as people who “seek the finer things in life.”

Highbrow magazine readers

If you’re engaged and informed, you might be more likely to open your wallet to support the fight against devastating conditions. That’s why the Alzheimer’s Association targeted those who read the news magazine The Week. The Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada has rented out names of the “community-minded” subscribers to the science magazine Discover. And the American Cancer Society set its sights on subscribers to Smithsonian, a science and culture magazine put out by the Smithsonian Institution. Why those readers? A marketing blurb about the magazine boasts that it draws “educated, affluent customers with a thirst for knowledge and a passion for life.”