February 5, 2007
With one arm tied behind our back
By Jim Babka
DC Downsizers, we've run into a serious problem and we need your help. 

During January, we sent some chills down people's spines when I wrote that we had gotten a low level of feedback in response to a particular Dispatch. We got messages from concerned supporters. Was something seriously wrong?

As it turns out, there was. We were working with one arm tied behind our back for most of January.

Last month was a very good month in so many ways.

* We broke our monthly record for messages to Congress.

* We broke the January record for number of newly registered DC Downsizers.

* Compared to the months of 2006, January, 2007 would've been our forth best month for recruiting new DC Downsizers.

* We achieved our monthly budget of $14,000 in just nine days -- faster than any month last year.

It was a good thing too because right after that, something went wrong. Donor response plummeted. Requests for your feedback (via feedback at DownsizeDC dot org) received a much lower response than normal.

And we started to watch our email subscription list shrink. So far, it has shrunk nearly 7,000. We hadn't been purging closed email addresses from our list for a few months because we were using a new delivery system and just didn't have the feature in place yet. When we turned it on, some shrinkage was expected, but not nearly as much as we actually had.

The last couple of weeks have been a nightmare. Why? Because America Online (AOL) has blacklisted us.

The result, in actual AOL addresses and related fall-out (like through Netscape addresses, which AOL owns as well) has been a loss of roughly 3,000 subscribers. But there's a real possibility the actual damage is closer to 5,000, or possibly even 6,000 subscribers.

On top of that, anyone attempting to sign up with our system using an AOL or AOL-related address couldn't confirm their registration. That means they didn't get subscribed to our list at all.

If we can get this problem fixed, we can resubscribe those that we lost who were already on the list. We still have their addresses. But the ones that couldn't be confirmed last month, well, they are likely lost forever. In fact, they probably left thinking we were incompetent.

We've been having difficulties with AOL since November. For those who want or need all the details, we explain the relationship and the reason for the blacklist on our blog.

Suffice it to say, it's all AOL's fault, and they haven't been good about fixing their problem.

We will get this fixed. We are determined. And in fact, we're very close to doing so, but for here and now, AOL's problem has caused us one very real difficulty. Imagine what it would mean for your company if thousands of your customers suddenly disappeared. Well, it works the same way for Downsize DC when we can't communicate with our supporters.

We're off to a very slow start on February fundraising. We may need to get allies and even get attorneys involved in fixing this AOL problem, so we need to have a very strong month financially.

Our monthly pledge base is up over $6,500 right now. Hundreds of people, giving amounts like $3, $5, $8, $10, $15, $25, or more per month are giving us a tremendous head start on making our monthly budget goal. Our largest pledger gives $250 per month. You can join these folks at a level that's right for you, here.

But we're not yet to the point where we can cover our entire budget in pledges. In addition, we've begun Internet advertising. And we'll have new progress to report on that front later this week. We'd like to keep that process going, which means not only meeting, but also exceeding our budget. You can make a generous one-time contribution here.

It's amazing what we accomplished with one arm tied behind our back for half the month. Despite not being able to communicate with thousands of our subscribers, we were still able to achieve success on an important bill in the Senate. Imagine what could be possible for us this month, or next month, once we get this AOL problem fixed.

Please help us keep the fight going. Please help us stand up to AOL.

And to those of you who already pledge or who have given here in 2007, thank you so much for your support!

Jim Babka
Downsize DC Foundation
&, Inc.

P.S. Again, if you have concerns about what's really happened or you're just plain curious, please check out that blog post where I provide the details.
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