I have been simmering over an email I received a few weeks ago from a dear friend. In that email, she shared with me an invitation that had been sent to her by a non-profit organization to whom she had never contributed a penny.
For all of you “relationship-based” fundraising professionals, I encourage you to take a deep breath and have a seat. (Note: I’ve changed the names to protect the innocent and avoid embarrassment). Here is the gist of what the invitation said:
Please join us for a cocktail reception
to kick-off our annual campaign
<<Date>> & <<Time>>
Hosted By Mr. & Mrs. Smith
A minimum donation of $500 is requested
If you wish to learn more about the agency,
please call the Executive Director.
After reading this email invitation at least 10 times, I was speechless; however, I think this YouTube video best captures how I feel.
Here is someone who is NOT a donor. The invitation was an email blast and not personal. There was no prospect cultivation done in advance. When you take these facts together with the “minimum contribution” request, I am left speechless. AND . . . just when you think it couldn’t get any worse, the invitee is told to call the executive director if they have programmatic or mission-based questions. WOW!
I apologize for my tone this morning, but things like this offend me because prospects and donors deserve better. Philanthropy is not about the “grab-and-run” fundraising approach . . . it is about connecting with people, discovering their dreams, and helping them put their charitable giving to work in a way that will help their dreams become reality.
I am left wondering if the volunteers who emailed this invitation were “taught” to ask in this manner. I know that it sounds crazy, but don’t human being typically do what they observe? If this is the case, then the non-profit agency who initially solicited these fundraising volunteers must be guilty of not possessing a “culture of philanthropy”.
This, of course, begs the question: “How can you change an organizations culture and instill a sense of philanthropy into it?” Thankfully, the fundraising sector has an awesome organization in The Association of Fundraising Professionals. I came across this awesome 2011 article titled “Building a Culture of Philanthropy” that speaks to this issue.
So many non-profit organizations are talking about “donor-centered fundraising” nowadays, but what is your agency actually doing to put these principles in place? Please use the comment box below to comment on this organization’s fundraising approach or how you ensure your fundraising volunteers don’t do things like this. We can all learn from each other.
Seriously . . . Here’s to your health!
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC