How NOT to Engage Your Donors

My daughter is 41 years old.  In 7th and 8th grade she went to a private school that turned out to be the only school in her educational career that she enjoyed.  After she moved on to high school, I received annual letters for 2 years—both addressed to “Dear Alumni Family” which, as I am sure you will concur, certainly warmed the cockles of my heart.  I honestly don’t remember what the letters said, but they were not about my child or why the school should still matter to me.  For the next 28 years, I heard nothing at all from the school.

Yesterday, I received the following letter.   I have redacted names, addresses, anything that could identify the school—though truthfully, I shouldn’t.  They don’t deserve the courtesy.



Do I even have to explicate all the things wrong with this letter?  It is a classic case of how NOT to engage your donors.  It also showed a clear disinterest in who I am or why I would even want to be involved with this organization.

I am, I confess, most annoyed at the laziness of the author.  If I haven’t been engaged in 28 years, something more than this form letter is clearly required.  How about starting with using my name, and maybe showing me a picture of my daughter, her class, the school when she went there?

There are so many good ways to reach out to those who used to be involved with your organization.  This letter shows you how NOT to do that.

Janet Levine works with nonprofits, helping them to move from mired to inspired.  Learn more at  While there, sign up for the newsletter and contact Janet 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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