If you are one of the 85% of alumni whose Williams College directory listing contains your email address, then you have received the notice to update/confirm your data.

Now, I like the directory for the access that it provides for us old grads who do try to stay connected. And the info has been pretty much easy going: name, address, what are you doing, how’s the wife and kids stuff.

This year the data requested takes on, to me, a different tone and the opportunity to exploit far more complex interrelationships. Well, take a look at it: Kids and their schools, wife and her employment and industry … not just yes/no but quite specific data is asked for: ethnicity, religion, and more subtly, sexual preference.

Having been in the communications/marketing/advertising complex for too many years, one develops that sixth sense that says “I wanna sell you something”.

The data is sent to a ‘trusted supplier’: http://www.harrisconnect.com/index

Harris is in the business of

Providing Non-Profits With The Widest Array Of Solutions To Engage Members And Generate Revenue
Our products and services include commemorative publications which feature member-generated content, historical articles and contact information; research services to update email, phone and mailing address data; innovative online communities which include email marketing, online giving, event registration, an application for Facebook, and other services; mobile marketing, and multi-channel fundraising programs including capital campaigns, annual fund, planned giving and major gifts. Harris Connect serves more than 4,000 organizations worldwide including top educational institutions, member associations and non-profit organizations.

I believe that raising money for any non-profit is a demanding operation and the fund-raisers need all the help they can get. But I think there is an opportunity inherent to the type of data requested for developing data connections far outside of the expected base of contributors and for more than the Alumni Fund. And that the opportunity to use this base for other purposes and sponsors is rife.

Perhaps we are all too used to supplying personal data on the social networks. But I wonder what the college expects that it will do with the additional data. Here is the questionnaire in screen shots …

The last one at the bottom is of interest to our trust and tax department or someone else’s trust and tax department:

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