That Time Again

First I got all the end of the year appeals. And I confess, few appealed to me at all. Not that I have anything against the work these organizations are doing, but I was not compelled by their asks.

For starters, as soon as I get a letter that starts, “Dear Friend,” or some other generic name, I stop reading. If they can’t bother to get to know me, I have no interest in them.

That goes double if what I am sent is a brochure—glossy or not. It, too, goes into my round file.

So now I am down to less than 1/3 of the appeals I get. If the letter spends all its real estate telling me about the wonderful work the organization does, I find my interest—small as it may have been—is completely gone. And so now I am down to maybe one or two.

If those letters talk to me about how what I as donor will help to accomplish, I read on. And if it ties my support to some outcome that matters to me, I’m there, credit number to the ready.

So now I am getting phone calls. Lots and lots and lots. I don’t actually know what most of them say. They call my landline, which I tend not to answer unless it is my son or daughter—though she and I FaceTime so I can see the grandkids. But a few have my cell phone number.

That’s not hard to get. I plaster all over my website, my business cards. But it is my business phone, and I don’t appreciate getting sales calls of any type on it.

I know, what’s an organization to do. I am not atypical. Few of us do answer our landlines—if we even have them. And as to cell phones, well, I don’t know about you, but if I don’t know who the call is from, I let it go to voice mail. And I generally call back those who leave a message.

Occasionally, however, I think I recognize a number and sometimes when I answer it is to my chagrin. Like the call I took from someone following up on an end of the year appeal.

After telling me her name and what she did at the organization, she asked me if now was a good time to talk. Of course it wasn’t. She was going to ask me for money and I would either have to say no, which is harder than it should be, or I would feel obliged to say yes. Which I didn’t want to do for this particular organization.

So I told her it was not a good time. And she asked me if she could call me later in the week. And again I told her no, though I know that her paying any attention is only wishful thinking.

And yes, of course, I feel crummy. After all, I spend my life telling nonprofits how to increase their fundraising results. But to my credit, I no longer advise following up with random calls.   If you do, I suggest a very to the point script, “Hi, I’m calling from (the organization’s name) to follow up on the end of year appeal. Can we depend on you for a gift of (and here I always suggest giving an amount. That amount can be somewhat larger than they gave last year, and if they don’t have a giving history, ask for something slightly above the adjusted average of your end of the gifts. Adjusted because I recommend you throw out any that are very low and/or extremely high)?

As I said last week, I think end of the year appeals need to be seriously re-thought, especially as Giving Tuesday is getting more play. There are lots of shiny new things out there—now may be time to consider one of those, or sticking with something tried and true but doing it at some other time of the year.



Janet Levine works with nonprofits, helping them to increase their fundraising totals. Learn more at While there, sign up for the free newsletter and contact Janet, asking for a free 30-minute consultation.



About janetlevineconsulting

For over 20 years, Janet Levine has worked for and with nonprofit and educational organizations, helping to grow their advancement programs. Her consulting company, Janet Levine Consulting, serves a wide range of organizations from small, all-volunteer agencies to major national organizations. She regularly teaches courses in non-profit management, fundraising and grant development, both face-to-face and online at In addition to her nonprofit work, Janet brings years of experience as a business and sales manager in the for-profit sector. She has an MBA from the Graziadio School of Business at Pepperdine University.
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