I interrupt this generational series of posts to state my very opinionated … opinion.
You know how after Halloween your parents had to check your candy bag for powdered poison, blades, kid-killing elixirs and everything else you never even imagined existed? It sort of took an ounce of the excitement out of immediately indulging in your hard-earned night’s worth of walking and knocking and waiting. Right? Ever thought about what this crushing 10 minutes of parental advisory does to little Johnny’s experience?
I know. It puts his gratification on pause. Inadvertently he learns that the fantasy of soliciting free candy from strangers has a catch. A parental one. His sugar and caffeine-filled donations are monitored. Even later he realizes that he never even said thank you to his neighbors for supplying him with a lunch treat, an after school snack and a late-night craving cure for the next few months. He learns that his costume which, for the most part, makes him anonymous, warrants no follow-up of appreciation the next day when he’s hopped back into his regular clothes.
This learning and behavior has a decent parallel to how we handle fundraising. The anonymity involved in asking donors to give through our mass-marketing techniques gives us a false sense of entitlement in that we never have to say thank you. As if we’re not real humans behind the postage stamp or email send button. Just like knocking on doors to “trick or treat”, we bang and bang again until someone gives us a few more months of electricity and research funds. We may acknowledge them with an impersonal confirmation, but this commonly involves another ask. More candy!? Are you serious? What if Johnny swung by your door twice and asked for a second Snickers before he said thank you for the first? In your head, you’d probably be thinking, “I just gave this little rascal one and he didn’t even say thank you! And now he wants more? Who raised this kid?”
Well how far off do you think this reaction is from how our donors perceive us when we do the same? Or when we ask and thank simultaneously? They may not wonder “Who raised us?”, but they surely are curious to know if we noticed that they just sent us money to advance our missions. Though we may think so, our computers are not costumes we can hide behind that excuse us from basic human manners, such as saying “thank you”. Especially to those who are freely providing us with the funds to keep our organizations afloat, without anything in return. So as a fundraiser, there is a catch. We don’t just get to collect candy, eat it, and move to the next door. If we do, what do you think this does to our donors’ experience? My feeling is that it puts their philanthropic spirit on pause, just like Johnny’s 10 minutes of parental perusing. Taking time out to mine through what we’ve received and express our gratitude in a personal way is necessary.
As I grew up, I learned to appreciate my neighbors and the $15 or so they spent on those bags of candy that kept my childhood sugar-high accelerated until holiday break. I eventually said “thank you” and paid them back by buying candy for their kids/grandkids that came knocking years later. The law of reciprocity is universal. How will you treat those who sweeten your mission this holiday season?
Amber is a Strategy Manager and soon-to-be Digital Geek in Merkle’s nonprofit vertical. She chooses to Do What Matters because “it’d be too easy not to. Challenge is good.”