Thursday, August 27, 2009

Sound Off: From the Donor's Perspective

I'm a little irked. I'll tell you why.

For those who live in the city, we're all used to the street teams that organizations use to collect random donations.

Do you have time to save the whales? Polar bears? Or children? Or what about stopping global warming?

You know the routine and when you see them on the street wearing their t-shirts and grasping their clipboards, you avoid all eye contact, play with your phone, anything to divert their attention from you.

For the most part I'm guilty as charged when it comes to avoiding these fundraising attempts but recently I caved in. Walking down Huntington Avenue, a notorious spot for street teams to linger, I stopped. Why, I'm still not sure, but the important thing is, I did.

After being pressured to make a donation to sponsor a...well, for all intensive purposes of keeping this organization anonymous, let's say I was pressured to sponsor something ridiculous like a computer...I insisted that I don't have the funds to make such a commitment, which is the truth. As much as I wanted to save the, uh "computers," I just couldn't commit but I was happy to make a one-time donation.

While I don't regret giving to a good cause, I'm a bit peeved with the treatment of donors by these street teams. I was barely thanked for my donation. It appeared that because I wasn't going to make a long-term commitment, my donation wasn't really good enough but they would take it anyway. In fact, I even had to repeat several times that I was willing to give some money as he kept badgering me to sponsor a "computer." I was about ready to withdraw my offer and leave him with nothing.

My story doesn't end here.

Over the next two weeks, as I walked down Huntington Avenue like I do every day, this same organization hounded me for more money on three separate occasions. I even ran into the guy to whom I originally gave my donation. I responded politely that I had already given money to them. Rather than receiving a "thank you" he said, "Great! Now you can sponsor a [computer]!" This happened with each run-in I had until finally, one woman said, "thank you."

That's all I needed. My anger has subsided...a little.

It is one thing to follow up with donors to see if they would be interested in continuing their support. This is absolutely necessary in nonprofit development and it was an appropriate question to ask me when they attempted to stop me. But it is another thing to completely disregard a donor's initial support and pressure them into more without even an inkling of gratitude.

It's all about the execution. Donors want to feel appreciated. It doesn't mean a song and a dance over how great they are for forking over some cash. It is simple recognition that the donor has given what they are capable of giving and no matter how small the amount, it is helpful to the organization.

If my money isn't making a difference, why donate?

I take into consideration that the response, "I've already donated," is probably heard on a frequent enough basis by street teams, if they even get a response at all, and the possibility that it is an outright lie people tell to be left alone is high. Fair enough. But that is the risk that is taken when using this type of fundraising technique. Therefore, the golden rule should be to thank every person that offers such a response because sometimes it is the truth and it is a bigger risk to irritate donors.

So, to the woman who actually thanked me for the donation I made, I thank her for her gratitude.

I'm ready to step off of my soapbox now.

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