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What's Turning Off Your Donors?

Lori Halley 02 September 2008 3 comments

"As a donor to charity, what do we nonprofits do that irritates you? What’s caused you to stop giving to a charity?" Marc Pitman asked the tough questions on LinkedIn, a social-networking site with a business/professional focus where the demographic is likely to be a close match for many nonprofits’ donors.  And the answers are very educational...

As a donor to charity, what do we nonprofits do that irritates you? What’s caused you to stop giving to a charity?

Telemarketing annoyances are very high on the list of pet peeves, not surprisingly. All the complaints that go along with commercial telephone solicitations, in fact, seem to apply equally to nonprofits. Just because you've got a good cause -- that doesn't mean the "intrusion" is any less, or the donor any more willing to give out their credit card information over the phone.

As well as the question of what it costs a nonprofit to hire a telemarketing company, there are strong objections to “boiler room” operations with computer-dialed calls, recorded messages, or someone who simply reads from a script; cold calls; inconvenient (dinner hour) calls; high-pressure tactics and “guilt-tripping”; and the list goes on.

  • “If you don’t know me and you’re asking for my money, at least give me the dignity of my surname. If you don’t KNOW my surname, why are you calling me?”
  • “Give me choices for how I want to be solicited. Maybe on-line is my preference; maybe mail. Never by phone. “
  • “Since it is clear that the charities keep records of donors in databases, use that information to respectfully care for your donors, just as a customer service operation uses a CRM application to care for its customers.”

Donors guide to recurring banner

The issue of accountability comes up in many forms, not surprisingly. Multiple mailings, high-cost mailings with unwanted “bonus gifts,” multiple appeals from various levels (local, state/provincial, national) of the same organization, and so on, come up repeatedly in the donors’ comments — and there is a strong objection to the selling or sharing of mailing lists.

  • “Don’t send me junk in the mail like address labels, notepads and pennies. I have an understanding of the costs of printing and mailing and including these items with a solicitation letter makes me wonder exactly how much of my donation will be used for the core mission of the non-profit.”
  • “If I have responded to your ANNUAL appeal, then why are you spending my donation on sending me monthly appeals?”
  • “Too bad — if only they’d used their customer/donor relationship software to the full extent, they’d still get her annual donation.”

Regardless of the method of contact and solicitation, donor fatigue is clearly reflected in comments like this:

  • “Nothing more annoying then the ‘thank you for your generous gift — you are the best!’ letter that immediately transitions into a ‘please give more now’.”

The feedback isn’t all negative, however. Among the 50-plus responses to date, there are some fine accolades for organizations that are “doing it right,” and clear statements of what individual donors expect and appreciate from the nonprofits to whom they give money.

Meanwhile, the responses to Marc’s question are still coming in...

If you’re a donor, why not add your own pet peeves to the LinkedIn list? And if you manage a nonprofit organization, you’ll find it well worth your time to read carefully through those comments. Donors are coming out to tell you exactly what it will take to bring them onboard — and it could be the most valuable information you’ll collect this week.

Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Tuesday, 02 September 2008 at 2:31 PM


  • Marc A. Pitman, FundraisingCoach.com said:

    Tuesday, 02 September 2008 at 7:43 AM

    Thanks for getting the question out to your list. The answers are pretty blunt. Refreshing, isn't it? :)

  • Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

    Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] said:

    Tuesday, 02 September 2008 at 6:08 PM

    I know you're working on a round-up post on this topic, Marc - I hope you'll be sure to share the link when you've compiled all the responses you've received.

  • Melanie Guin MNM said:

    Thursday, 04 September 2008 at 6:26 AM

    When I saw this question I hadn't even thought about the mailing labels and such, but now that it has been mentioned I do get those a lot and usually they hit my trash bin because I have so many of my own personalized labels. What a waste this must be. If the printing or such is received in-kind, maybe that should be noted to the potential donor.


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