Epsilon’s Dennis McCarthy is one of the truly cool dudes in the fundraising biz.  He is smart, loaded with integrity, and never stops learning.  He kind of said it all yesterday on a call with a mutual client: “there are no short-cuts in this business.”

While Dennis was speaking in another context, here’s an area where we have all spent way too long trying to have it all — action alerts.  I mean how easy and wonderful — you load a canned letter into Get Active or Convio, blast your list and voila — list cultivation and legislative change, all at the stroke of a mouse.

But it doesn’t work that way.

Here is an excerpt from a massive study conducted by the Congressional Management Foundation:

Many congressional staff doubt the legitimacy of identical form communications, and want to know whether communications are sent with constituents’ knowledge and consent. Half of congressional staff surveyed believe identical form communications are not sent with constituents’ knowledge or consent. Another 25% are unsure about the legitimacy of these communications. Additionally, 89% would like the ability to differentiate list-generated campaigns from those sent through direct constituent action.

I read that report to suggest that if you are serious about affecting legislation, the canned email will be pretty much ignored totally by 75% of Hill staffers.  That’s not very useful.

If you are doing action alerts, don’t fool yourself into thinking you can cultivate the list and change the world with the same device.  It appears not to be the case.

No short cuts.  Thanks a lot, Dennis.