May 2018 S M T W T F S « Sep 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31
My friend Jonathan put this question up for discussion: “As a ‘development’ ploy, a charity sends a two dollar check, asking that the recipient not cash it and donate instead. Cash it or not?”
One friend said, “I cash it and donate double.”
Another said, “Stupid fundraising method. If I am the charity, I 1099 the people who cash the checks.”
Yet another wrote, “I think that the fact that a charity is using any of their assets to send out checks to anyone other than the stated benefactor of the charity, calls into question their management practices and their ability to responsibly manage donated funds. Think twice before donating to them; find another charity to donate to & I wouldn’t cash the check.”
My first answer? I said cash it, keep the money, and make the gift that the direct mail piece was too silly to ask for outright. Send a note with the gift to comment on the concern he felt about this appeal type and ask that they exclude him from this type of scheme in the future. All fundraising techniques work for somebody sometime, and my guess is that Jonathan had been micro-segmented based on prior giving or some other variable. (Or maybe they thought he’s a little old lady with church-based guilt issues. If he was a knitter or crochet-er or quilter, maybe the charity bought a stitch craft magazine mailing list, or maybe it’s just a big ol’ zip code drop…).
The charity’s appeal might work. The yield for investment might actually be pretty good, and they may end up putting more money into their programming to benefit their mission. However, I doubt it is a well-thought-out endeavor since Jonathan received and questioned it. My suggestion that Jonathan give is based on a presumption that he cares about the mission of that particular charity, not because the solicitation warranted a response.
I have never recommended this appeal technique. My understanding of the logic behind this type of appeal is that the check amount (or a $1.00 bill — I’ve received that appeal before) is of a size that the donor will write a bigger check back — $2 barely pays for postage and printing from the charity and the effort of cutting a check and postage from the donor. Regrettably, this sets the scale of the ask too low too. But my main problem with this appeal is not that it doesn’t work — it does — or that the gift size is likely to be quite small, but guilt and trick giving is no way to build a relationship with a donor. For every $6 raised in a given year, non-profits typically retain only $5 the following year due to donor attrition. Why create extra tension for the donor about deciding to give if there is likely already a problem with keeping donors engaged? Why lead the donor to wonder at all about the motive of the solicitation?
Regarding the comment about management practices and the charity’s ability to responsibly manage donated funds, I am generally critical of the arbitrary measurement of 10-20% of budget maximum as an indicator of successful nonprofit fiscal management. Although it doesn’t happen nearly as often as it should, a critical look at a 990 is a better way to gauge the charity’s fiscal health against one’s own values. Tell a for-profit company that, in any given year, they shouldn’t invest more in sales if it’s warranted, and they’d likely consider the request to be uninformed and insulting.
* quote from the 1985 movie “Better Off Dead,” one of my least favorite movies of all time and one with seemingly inexplicable cult appeal.
When it launched its new Facebook fan page, NTEN (the Nonprofit Technology Network) offered participants a chance to win a free registration for the NTEN On-line Technology Conference, or a registration discount for a serious post, on its discussion tab (…still trying to figure out if I’m seriousish but it’s guaranteed to be a great conference and you should totally go so it’s worth it to get serious…).
The question for discussion? What’s holding your technology back? Here’s my reply, quick and dirty.
Our parent company, called ROI Philanthropy Partners, Inc., is effectiveness-focused. I was all ready to say ‘undefined intentions,’ or not knowing the difference between communications ROI and fundraising ROI, or department use silo-ing.
But then I got stuck thinking about a Steve Heye tweet this week: “What if we all stopped working to keep our org growing and started working to make a difference?” To his comment, I would say now that a pretty consistent problem we see is ‘when is enough enough.’ This is the crux of the effectiveness problem in NPOs right now, measuring the difference made in program reach, in fundraising success, in operational efficiencies. Who needs to see information delivered in this way, versus another delivery method? Which segments of our constituencies care about a fan page vs. a twitter account vs. purl mailings vs. a phone call vs. a mailed brochure — or a combination of any or all of these?
According to the Fundraising Effectiveness Project (disclosure: I’m on the committee), for every six dollars given to an NPO in a given year, the NPO will lose five dollars through attrition and reduced support. For every six donors in a given year, NPOs lose five the following year.
What’s holding technology back? As a whole we are slow to justify its reach to any given constituency, so as an industry segment we are still in the ‘putting feelers out’ phase of methodology uses. Add to that the onslaught of new products every year, and we have varying degrees of authenticity measures to factor into the equation each year — how to apple-to-apple effectiveness in the shifting sands of product availability?