I’ve written about a few badly done gift acknowledgments, here and here. I didn’t want to shame the organizations, so I omitted their names. But after each post, a colleague urged me to contact the offending organization. These organizations deserve to know, they said.
They were right. So I set off to find a phone number or even email address for the person at each organization in charge of fundraising.
It wasn’t easy.
These organizations have marvelous, complex websites. Colorful, functional… and inviting, but only up to a point. Because locating a staff person to actually speak with was impossible. Intentionally so, I presume.
In the first case, after a lot of sleuthing, I found a phone number. It connected me to a call center operator. She was able to take my message, but couldn’t direct me to a responsible person.
In the other case, I had to find their annual report buried on their site. Then I used Linkedin and tried to piece together a likely staff person. Finally, I made a guess at the email address, based on the way others were formatted.
That’s just ridiculous.
If your fundraising has gotten so “sophisticated” that you’re not available to the public – to the people who support your nonprofit – then you’ve missed the boat. You’ve raised tactics and automation to a high level. But you’ve forgotten what we do is about relationships.
And if your message is that the relationship works one way – that is, send us your money and then leave us alone – that’s a sad commentary on your philosophy of giving.
I looked at 16 of the largest charities in the U.S. as judged by Forbes and the Christian Science Monitor. (Nothing very scientific here – I grabbed the first couple of lists I found.) I wanted to see if they also opted to hide the chief fundraiser’s name or contact information. Out of the group, only 6 list senior staff. But even they use obscure titles that make it difficult to be sure. The other ten either have general contact forms to fill out, or nothing listed at all.
I understand these are large organizations, most with local branches or affiliates. But if the gift is solicited by a national charity, the donor ought to be able to contact someone there, don’t you think?
I also understand the demands on senior fundraisers’ time. We’re all busy. But if you won’t prioritize connecting with your donors, hire a staff person to do it. And then list that person’s name and contact information where it can be easily found.
Treating fundraising like a business – transactional, formalized, automated – makes it very difficult for living, breathing donors to make a personal connection.
Even if you have a great website.