Anyone of a certain age or entertainment preference will recognize the Borg.
For the rest of you, let me explain a little. In Star Trek, the Borg is one of the most dangerous foes our heroes have to deal with. To quote Wikipedia’s entry:
The Borg are a collection of species that have been turned into cybernetic organisms functioning as drones of the Collective, or the hive. A pseudo-race, dwelling in the Star Trek universe, the Borg force other species into their collective and connect them to “the hive mind“; the act is called assimilation and entails violence, abductions, and injections of microscopic machines called nanoprobes. The Borg’s ultimate goal is “achieving perfection”… The pursuit of an unemotional, mechanical perfection is the Borg’s only motivation.
While perfection is a terrific thing to aim at, I want to argue for messy humanity.
We want donors to love our cause. That’s a great thing. But as close as they get to us, they are not us. In some ways, it would be easier if every donor was alike – no need for personalization or segmentation, for instance.
But most of those messy creatures will not be assimilated.
They will not think as we do. They will not intuit our needs and reasons. We have to communicate our needs. We have to relate to them.
Nor are nonprofit organizations part of a hive mind. There’s an organization out there for every donor. Our individuality is part of our attraction. Even our flaws can endear us to our supporters.
So why does so much of what appears in my mail box scream “We are the Borg. Your culture will adapt to service us. Resistance is futile.”?
Every time I see the same package coming from two different organizations, or another “Dear Friend” letter, or a generic gift acknowledgement, I want to scream my resistance. “No! I’m me. And you DO know me. Or at least you’ve been happy to accept my money. So why can’t you acknowledge me?”
Most fundraisers will tell you that what we do is about relationships. So why are we afraid to show real emotion? Why are we afraid to be what our donors want – genuine. Human. Emotional. Even messy, sometimes.
Jeff Brooks mentioned years ago that letters with a typo seem to do better. I wonder if a typo helps because it shows we’re human?