My Name Is Not Donor

Nicole54 by Ally Aubry
09.21.2011By

Nicole54 by Ally Aubry

My name is not donor, the mythical ghost in the machine you are targeting.

You don’t know my name. Why? Because it’s some random field in your house file. A random Bob, a misplaced Jane in a sea of Johns, Alices, Michaels and Jennifers.

Really, you don’t care about me. I know this. I can tell when I receive all of your “communications,” your solicitations, your ceaseless asks. Invariably, it’s always about money.

I get it. It’s the “donor acquisition” strategy. And because I didn’t “give enough,” the level of outreach is impersonal. You can’t invest in me.

I’ve got bad news for you. I don’t want to invest in you either. It doesn’t make me feel good. You don’t treat me like a valuable person, an individual. You don’t report results back to me. You don’t remember what I have done, and you don’t provide extra value or access in my life.

What you don’t know is I give thousands of dollars every year to more than a dozen charities. I have raised another $9,000 on average per year for the last three years.

But you wouldn’t know that. Because I am just a cheap donor to you. Maybe if you spam me enough I’ll bite.

Ha! We both know that won’t happen.

That’s because my name is not donor.

  • As you know, we do quite a lot of deep nonprofit blogger outreach, reaching out to thousands of bloggers; however, we never fire and forget, we always ride each pitch all the way to each blogger and then making sure there’s a real human follow-through. 

    You know what what you’re experiencing has to do with?  Skeleton-crew staffing and bad advice. 

    The advice may be correct — that the more people you ask for money the more money you’ll probably get in the end; the wider the net and the newer and less-harvested the field the richer the yield. Unfortunately, the advice that many nonprofits are getting is mainly to buy more and more lists and then to email and mail them as often as possible with the primary goal of accruing those magical “seven touches” before going bankrupt. 

    And bankrupt they are often going, whether they’re willing to admit it or not. 

    My agency has lost nonprofit clients in the last year because of the slashing of budgets and the leaving of their best people and the lowering of donation amounts and big donations.

    In many cases, it really is the buying of lists — of thousands and thousands of names, emails, addresses — and the lack of staff to do the proper level of Quality Control to make sure those lists are properly named, properly messaged, and properly addresses in such a way that the recipient makes an honest-to-goodness well-weighted choice on whether or not to donate based more on the issues and the emotional connection — and even the messaging and production — rather than just the frustration associated with received a message to DONOR or Jeff Livington or to Livingston, etc.  Anyway, thanks for reading this far through this comment.

    • geofflivingston

      You spelled my name wrong!

      Yeah, I agree. It’s short sighted, and a downward spiral that supports itself.  It is actually really sad because unlike businesses, nonprofits do care.

      • They’re too stressed and afraid to act caring right now.  They’re in “the grip” in Myers-Briggs parlance — acting against type because they’re in debt, they’re struggling, and they’re offsourcing and outsourcing their futures, out of desperation, to very aggressive agencies and direct marketing experts — and they’re firing and losing their best people — or their best people are going private sector.  It is really amazing to watch to see how desperate they have become.  So, even though they do care about their issue and their charity, they care more about survival and they’re trying anything and everything. I don’t blame them, either, but I also am tired of their incessant messaging and the piles and piles of mail pouring into my snail mail box and my email inbox. Oy vey!

      • Dhaskins

        I thought spelling your name wrong was part of the point. 🙂

  • As you know, we do quite a lot of deep nonprofit blogger outreach, reaching out to thousands of bloggers; however, we never fire and forget, we always ride each pitch all the way to each blogger and then making sure there’s a real human follow-through.u00a0 nnYou know what what you’re experiencing has to do with?u00a0 Skeleton-crew staffing and bad advice.u00a0 nnThe advice may be correct — that the more people you ask for money the more money you’ll probably get in the end; the wider the net and the newer and less-harvested the field the richer the yield. Unfortunately, the advice that many nonprofits are getting is mainly to buy more and more lists and then to email and mail them as often as possible with the primary goal of accruing those magical “seven touches” before going bankrupt.u00a0 nnAnd bankrupt they are often going, whether they’re willing to admit it or not.u00a0 nnMy agency has lost nonprofit clients in the last year because of the slashing of budgets and the leaving of their best people and the lowering of donation amounts and big donations. nnIn many cases, it really is the buying of lists — of thousands and thousands of names, emails, addresses — and the lack of staff to do the proper level of Quality Control to make sure those lists are properly named, properly messaged, and properly addresses in such a way that the recipient makes an honest-to-goodness well-weighted choice on whether or not to donate based more on the issues and the emotional connection — and even the messaging and production — rather than just the frustration associated with received a message to DONOR or Jeff Livington or to Livingston, etc.u00a0 Anyway, thanks for reading this far through this comment.

    • Anonymous

      You spelled my name wrong!nnYeah, I agree. It’s short sighted, and a downward spiral that supports itself.u00a0 It is actually really sad because unlike businesses, nonprofits do care.

      • They’re too stressed and afraid to act caring right now.u00a0 They’re in “the grip” in Myers-Briggs parlance — acting against type because they’re in debt, they’re struggling, and they’re offsourcing and outsourcing their futures, out of desperation, to very aggressive agencies and direct marketing experts — and they’re firing and losing their best people — or their best people are going private sector.u00a0 It is really amazing to watch to see how desperate they have become.u00a0 So, even though they do care about their issue and their charity, they care more about survival and they’re trying anything and everything. I don’t blame them, either, but I also am tired of their incessant messaging and the piles and piles of mail pouring into my snail mail box and my email inbox. Oy vey!

      • Dhaskins

        I thought spelling your name wrong was part of the point. :)n

  • Dhaskins

    I think you’re dead on with this. The one that drives me most crazy is when I tell someone I won’t be donating this year and they try to negotiate with me. I want no to mean NO and they just don’t get it.

    • geofflivingston

      Listening skills are at a premium these days!

  • Dhaskins

    I think you’re dead on with this. The one that drives me most crazy is when I tell someone I won’t be donating this year and they try to negotiate with me. I want no to mean NO and they just don’t get it.

    • Anonymous

      Listening skills are at a premium these days!

  • http://www.dearjoan.net/

    Great article.

    Cold list churning is an
    inefficient (as well as annoying) choice compared to other recruitment media, especially for
    smaller non-profits.

    Your piece is also a great lesson for non-profits on how they should treat their existing supporters too. Not as numbers. Not as ‘donors’. But as generous people who care, who want to help. People who deserved to be thanked, told they’re making difference and generally made to feel loved for their support.

    I am not a donor – I’m the person who makes your good work possible.

    • geofflivingston

      Absolutely. I like to think of donors as investors. They are investing in your work. Treat them like you would someone who invests in your business.

  • http://www.dearjoan.net/

    Great article.nnCold list churning is an ninefficient (as well as annoying) choice compared to other recruitment media, especially for nsmaller non-profits.nnYour piece is also a great lesson for non-profits on how they should treat their existing supporters too. Not as numbers. Not as ‘donors’. But as generous people who care, who want to help. People who deserved to be thanked, told they’re making difference and generally made to feel loved for their support.nnI am not a donor – I’m the person who makes your good work possible.nnnn

    • Anonymous

      Absolutely. I like to think of donors as investors. They are investing in your work. Treat them like you would someone who invests in your business.

  • Personally, I think donors give blood and body parts. Supporters are interested in football teams, Members join organisations to get a benefit. Who gives money? A giver. And givers, as you suggest all have a name!
    Peter at: www.agofwks.blogspot.com

    • geofflivingston

      It’s pretty amazing when you look at what the words actually mean in the dictionary. LOL.  Good comment.

  • Personally, I think donors give blood and body parts. Supportersu00a0are interested inu00a0football teams, Members join organisations to get a benefit. Who gives money? A giver. And givers, as you suggest all have a name!nPeter at:u00a0www.agofwks.blogspot.com

    • Anonymous

      It’s pretty amazing when you look at what the words actually mean in the dictionary. LOL.u00a0 Good comment.

  • The last position that I interviewed for several years ago before going into consulting was as a database administrator/grant writer/individual giving manager.  There were other responsibilities too – a laundry list of ’em.  The pay?  The princely sum of $15 an hour, slave wages even six or seven years ago.  The realities of life in a “small shop” – you know, those organizations holding your community together amidst declining donations and decreasing grants – are brutal.  I’ve worked in jobs where I was the fifth development director in three years.  And yet, of course, everyone wants “100% of their donation to go directly to the cause.”   Because, heaven forbid your donation would actually go to pay a salary!

  • The last position that I interviewed for several years ago before going into consulting was as a database administrator/grant writer/individual giving manager.u00a0 There were other responsibilities too – a laundry list of ’em.u00a0 The pay?u00a0 The princely sum of $15 an hour, slave wages even six or seven years ago.u00a0 The realities of life in a “small shop” – you know, those organizations holding your community together amidst declining donations and decreasing grants – are brutal.u00a0 I’ve worked in jobs where I was the fifth development director in three years.u00a0 And yet, of course, everyone wants “100% of their donation to go directly to the cause.”u00a0u00a0 Because, heaven forbid your donation would actually go to pay a salary!

  • Pingback: 5 Tips to Make Donating Easy | Inspiring Generosity()

  • MRS Martha C.

    One of the older and best-respected public charities (the name would surprise you) sent me a solicitation addressed to “Mr. Martha.”  Guess how much I contributed to their cause that year?

  • MRS Martha C.

    One of the older and best-respected public charities (the name would surprise you) sent me a solicitation addressed to “Mr. Martha.”u00a0 Guess how much I contributed to their cause that year?