Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Begging letter

I'm used to getting begging letters from Cambridge University, and in particular from Fitzwillliam College - I spent three great years there, so I'm a likely touch.

Today, I got a begging letter from Oxford; specifically from Frances Wheare, Development and Alumni Manager. And I'm not an alumnus of Oxford.

It was not, of course, framed as a begging letter. At no point did it suggest a donation, so possibly I'm wrong about this. Experience suggests otherwise, and when she says "would be extremely interested to hear your thoughts on how we might achieve our goals", I hear "donation".

She didn't send the (paper) letter to me - she sent it to the registered address of my company, which means that she bought a spamming list of names and addresses of computer-related companies. She does mention that I have a background in information security, so maybe she did some research?

But she doesn't give an email address. So how do I reply? There's a phone number, but that's for "General enquiries", and an address "Department of Computer Science". Why no email address? Why no direct line?

So, of course, I googled her name to try to find an email address, and found her on twitter (she hasn't posted there for about a year, and I couldn't see an email address). "Recovering arts fundraiser, now geek-in-training at Oxford University's Department of Computer Science." Fundraiser, eh? I thought so.

She's on Linked-in, still no email address. Before she went to Oxford, she was "Donor development manager" at the Philharmonia. Donor - I thought so. I also found her on the Guardian's "blind date", where she was given 7 out of 10.

She was also a fundraiser for the Edinburgh Marathon.

She's also on Myspace, Flickr, Pinterest - nothing recent, or of interest there.

So Frances, here's my recommendations.

1) Don't buy lists from list vendors of people who you might spam to.
2) Give your email address when you write to someone.
3) Oxford alumni are probably a better touch for you than Cambridge alumni.

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