Jun 19, 2010

Oops -- Not-So-Effective Fundraising Examples

Usually I try to applaud fundraisers who are doing a great job, rather than point a finger at those who don't quite get it. It's tough being a fundraiser, and many come to the task with no training other than goodwill.

But more and more, the field of fundraising is full of high-quality, easily accessed information about how to do things right. And in some cases, those working at established organizations with good access to mentoring and training should know better by now! So why am I seeing misguided practices like the following?

1) Just got an email with the subject line, "Larger Donors We Need Matching Funds." Huh. Is this addressed to me? Just how large do I have to be to be considered a "larger donor?" Is it measured by weight or volume? (Yes, I know what they mean, but do the rest of the email recipients?) And if I already knew I was a "larger donor," would I appreciate being taken for granted in this manner, as if my history of large donations were just a tap to be turned on as needed? I doubt it. There's nothing about this subject line that makes me want to open the email.

2) Passing by a table near the front of my local Safeway recently, I noticed a stack of used books for sale, in support of a local charity. Good idea! But rotten execution. I've never seen a pile of books more in need of some culling. There was a guidebook to Seattle schools from the year 2001 -- and we're in Oakland. There were other reference books just old enough to be useless, but not old enough to be antiques. And the overall look of the books was cheap, cheap, cheap. At least they didn't have to worry about shoplifting. But, as is typical, I didn't want to paw through the pile any further in hopes of treasure. At a certain point -- and I say this with due reverence for books -- a few of them simply need to be recycled, just like with an old newspaper. Sales of used goods to the public are most successful when people can see a good proportion of quality among the junk.

3) I got yet another appeal letter from a certain national organization, despite having requested, several months ago in writing, that it stop sending me appeal letters. As I explained to them, I'd like to continue subscribing to their lovely magazine, but was annoyed by the fact that I could never tell from the letters whether my subscription was about to run out or whether this was just another appeal for money. The language of the letters seemed intentionally vague. Too bad, because I might have considered their side-appeals but for this annoyance factor. In any case, I called them and have supposedly been removed from the appeal-letter list. We'll see -- they haven't shown much efficiency around my separate requests to change my address (started off okay, then reverted to the old one!?).

Ok, that's all for now. Will presumably get back to acknowledging all the great work done by hard-working, creative, and committed fundraisers next week.