Dear [name of nonprofit/charity goes here]:
Oh, goodie, another request for money. Maybe it’s the fourth reminder about “membership renewal” I’ve received in the past six weeks…roughly one every two weeks since I actually sent in a check that was intended to cover “membership.” Those letters seem to come a lot more often in November and December–but it’s really a year-round plague.
Maybe it’s another tchotchke, most likely something made of outgassing/stinky plastic that winds up in the garage (with or without a “b” after the “r”), followed by repeat letters reminding us how lovely your advertising gimmick is and why we should send you ($300? $200? $150? More?) out of sheer gratitude.
Maybe it’s a letter saying that you’d really appreciate it if we upped our contribution by (50%? $100?), and not-so-subtly implying that we’re cheapskates if we don’t come through.
Now, this time around I’m only talking to/about some of the groups that we do support…or at least have supported. And I can tell you that we’re getting more than a little tired of it.
Somehow, Second Harvest (which gets incredible value for every dollar contributed) manages to get by with one or at most two mailings a year. No unwanted crap. No real guilt trip: They lay out what our money can buy, they lay out–succinctly, without horror stories or grotesque photos–what the problem is. It’s a pleasure to write a good-size check.
Somehow, Recordings for the Blind & Dyslexic manages to raise funds without driving us crazy with repeat mailings. The same is true for Doctors Without Borders and a couple of others.
Oh, and it’s a funny thing: We’re not “members” of Second Harvest or Recordings for the Blind or Doctors Without Borders. We’re just contributors. So we can’t possibly forget to renew our membership.
Nature Conservancy–well, they’re not bad, although they could be better. The quarterly magazine really is informative. They’ve gotten the message that offering tchotchkes is one thing, but sending them unrequested is offensive litter. I think we average four fundraising requests from them a year, two from the Northern California chapter, two from national. We can live with that, although two would be even better.
But for some of you…actually most of you, though tchotchkes aren’t the problem they used to be (with one awful exception, a society I’m feeling less humane towards all the time, not to give any clues)…
Well, here’s the truth. We give to causes we care about, where we’re reasonably certain our money is well spent and where we don’t see a huge philosophical difference with the organization.
We don’t like being annoyed with repeated mailings. We really don’t care whether our “member” status is on the line. And we really, truly aren’t fond either of unrequested merchandise (we’ll make an exception for a really good calendar) or the guilting of sending stamped return envelopes.
Yes, it would be nice for you if we increased our giving by $100 or 25% of whatever each year. Fact is, though, that our income’s heading in the opposite direction. For us to even maintain giving levels next year will be a considerable stretch. That’s not your problem, of course, but it makes us a little less tolerant of heavy-handed fundraising efforts.
For every nonprofit/charity we support now, there’s another within the same general sphere that we could substitute. Given some of the examples we see now, we’re inclined to suspect that some of those will nag us a whole lot less–and most of those will spare us the trinkets.
Maybe it’s time to do what we thought about last year. Just a simple spreadsheet (or another page on the donations spreadsheet we already have). One number per group. Add one for each mailing we receive. Add five for each unrequested trinket we receive. When giving time comes around, subtract two from the total, multiply by five, and modify last year’s donation by the resulting percentage. In other words: Send us three letters, lose 5%. Send us six letters and two trinkets, lose 70% of this year’s contribution. (Send us just one letter a year…and the contribution goes up 5%.) There are always worthwhile places to send that freed-up money.
Sounds like a plan.
Of course, this is just idle musing. We’re really not ready to take such a drastic step. Yet. Or are we? Writing a group of checks last week was fun. Recycling stacks of repeated requests, typically for ever-larger amounts: Less fun.