When You Solicit a Donation

Dear Non-Profit,

Nothing feels better to most people than being able to give a few dollars to a worthy organization that puts $2 or $5 together with many similar small donations, and then often multiplies it many times over, due to generous matching bequests from well-heeled supporters. The latter are themselves giving of what they have earned or received to an organization that is doing plenty of good in this world. We do check Charity Navigator or similar organizations first to find out about you. Some of you are not ethical.

In addition, there are many other affluent donors in the world who also choose to remain anonymous but aren’t able to match donations. There is so much genuine need in the world, so much pain, suffering, abuse and hunger. Would there were even more people of a giving mindset instead of the Gimme, gimme, what’s in it for me? Payback time! crowd. Even so, some solicitations from non-profits are rude.

What We Don’t Want to See

  • The first thing to keep in mind is that you want your solicitation opened by everyone who receives it, assuming you aren’t using a mailing list you purchased decades ago and are mailing to people who passed away years back, like my mother-in-law who died in 1989 and my father-in-law who died in 1998. And neither of them ever lived at any of my addresses!
  • A follow-up to that is that your envelope needs to be non-offensive or at least neutral. If it’s offensive, as in stating “Your donation is missing!” it goes straight to the trash. If it’s lying – “We’ll never ask you for another donation!” – ditto. Even if you sort of mean that, we know perfectly well you’ll just solicit us under a slight variation of our original name on your list because no one ever scrubs the list for you to at least match addresses. Don’t ever address solicitations to our children or our cat or dog!
  • The next thing all you non-profits need to recognize is that when someone sends you a check – even for $2 – they don’t want a follow-up solicitation 15 days later or 45 days later. I know you are desperate but what you saw from me last month is what you’re getting this year. You’re probably fortunate if you get a 2% positive response rate to that first mailing, so don’t waste precious marketing dollars or environmental resources on an immediate follow-up. Please allow people the courtesy of time to breathe.
  • Finally, don’t send us items we can’t use in an attempt to shame us into giving. Return address labels are useful until we get 30 sheets of them from 30 different charities, often with the name and/or address incorrect. We don’t need cheap pens with cheap ink made in China, flimsy greetings cards that don’t even stand up, recyclable bags coming apart at the seams or so-called 16-month calendars, etc.

What We Do Want

Tell us a story that explains your organization’s mission, who you help and why! Include photos if they’re truthful and current. Most of us can’t give much but we know we can give something. Suggest reasonable amounts, not $50 or more. The dollars any person has for charitable giving are finite.

Your competition in a cold, often heartless world is fierce. There are more than 1.5 million registered non-profits just in the U.S.A. Don’t ruin your chances of getting help for those people, animals and the environment that need our help 24/7. Don’t infuriate potential donors and we’ll stretch our dollars even more to help you. And always remember that we can and do check your credentials through Charity Navigator at any hour of the day or night. If you have a low rating or your CEO is getting paid the big bucks, don’t expect us to continue to fall for your spiel. Even when you’re at an admirable 4-star rating, keep spending the donations wisely!

Thank you!

Shirley Ann Parker

Disclaimer: My blog posts are statements of opinion only. I am not in the business of giving financial, legal, medical or any other type of advice. See Terms of Use and Disclaimer for further disclaimers.

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