Yesterday morning, my dad brought in the day’s mail and opened it at the kitchen table. As he opened each envelope, he looked at the contents and started saying “Nope, they’re not getting anymore money,” and made a pile in front of me. The pile he made grew larger with each envelope he opened. The pile was filled with address labels sent from an assortment of nonprofits either asking for their annual gift or soliciting gifts for their cause. Each set of labels had either misspelled the names of my parents or had the address wrong. Dad asked me, “Why should I give to a group that doesn’t know me well enough to spell my name correctly or even get my address right?” I just shook my head, laughed, and agreed with him. The organizations wasted their time and money sending him something he didn’t want nor could he use.
Later in the day, I met with Ted, a friend since elementary school who is now a local businessman. We talked about a myriad of subjects including news about family and mutual friends, politics, the state of the world, and finally my involvement in fundraising. Ted told me about the types of nonprofits he supports and those he doesn’t. He then asked me, “Why do organizations spend money on things that I don’t want or need to try and get my money for their causes? I am so sick of groups offering to send me blankets, calendars, and other items when they could be using that money for their programs. It’s a waste of my donation.”
Far too many nonprofits do this kind of thing and I do not understand why. Donors don’t want stuff in return for their gifts, especially things they cannot use, like labels with misspellings or incorrect addresses. They don’t want poorly made blankets or bags made in third world countries with your logo on them. They don’t want pens, pencils, or coffee mugs in exchange for their gifts. Receiving something in return for their money is not showing appreciation, it is a transaction. It turns off most of the donors that I know. Believe me, I ask people for their opinions.
What donors want is to know that their gift is being used wisely. They want an earnest and personal thank you for their support. They want to know how you used their donation to grant a sick child’s wish or to feed a homeless family or to create a sanctuary for an endangered species. They want to be informed about your organization’s successes and find out what more they can do to help your organization’s efforts without constantly being asked for more money. Sending them an annual packet of labels with misspelled names along with the annual request for more money does not do that.
I recommend, or should I say that my father and my friend, Ted, recommend that organizations stop wasting money on printing labels or buying other premiums to send their supporters, and put more effort into giving their donors what they want: A real partnership that will be strengthened with true appreciation and personalized communication.