A Seriously Bad Fundraising Appeal

I thought it must be spam. Surely a large and reputable nonprofit would never send such a poorly conceived and badly written email. But no. It is apparently legit. Sigh. Double sigh

It starts nicely enough. The first two words are”Thank you. “ But for what?  I am neither a current donor nor have any of former gifts—infrequent as they were—large enough to by themselves have made a difference. It’s also been at least three years since I donated  I don’t know why I am being thanked and the writer doesn’t say

The writer does go on to tell me that the organization is, and here I am quoting (including the obvious oops of something that was lost in translation) working hard to serve our communities and patients, ensuring that our doors are open to everyone – no matter what.

As I write to you today, we are nearing the end of our fundraising year on June 30.

(And here is that oops I mentioned) changes the lives of our patients, and I want to share one such story with you.

Then there is a clip about a very specific population. Whether I care about this population is beside the point—the organization very clearly does not know if I care and did nothing to tell me why this should, could, might matter to me.  In fact, it seemed clear to me that I only mattered as an ATM machine.  That was brought home to me by the P.S.:   If you have already made your gift, please disregard this email and accept our heartfelt thanks. 

Oh, okay, your message is only important if it causes me to make a gift.  

Folks, this is a poor reason to do an e (or snail) mail solicitation.

At best, this appeal will garner a 4% response rate.  But think of how many people could be influenced—perhaps not for now but for the future—with a message that had a call to action beyond “give us money.”  

Giving money is easy.  But it’s not a connection.  Instead of telling me to “disregard this email” because, I presume, what you are saying is of no import,  how about using it to show me what my gift meant.  “If you’ve already made your gift, I hope you watch the clip and see how important your support has been.”

Obviously, this appeal was not part of a well-thought out campaign.  It appears that it was an add on because the end of the fiscal year is nigh and the organization has not hit its fundraising goals.  

For fundraising, particularly transactional fundraising, to be successful, there has to be a plan.  The pieces need to support each other, reinforce key points, engage your donors, and show them why their involvement is critical to meeting the mission —the mission they care about.  Just throwing something out in the hopes that some people will respond is not just ineffectual, but it is insulting to everyone involved in your organization.

Janet Levine works with nonprofits, helping them to move from mired to inspired.  Learn more at www.janetlevinconsulting.com.  While there, sign up for our free newsletter and contact Janet to schedule 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 http://courses.lmlearningstation.com/. 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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