Fundraising is all about relationships. The problem with relationships is that when one party gets it wrong, the other party can end up feeling a bit hurt.
And the problem for charities is that a hurt donor is very likely to take their love – and their money – elsewhere.
I’ve recently had a bad relationship with a big charity. I’m not going to name them, we’ll call them Charity X. But I will tell you where it all when wrong in our romance, in the hope that we can all learn from their mistakes.
Forgetting to ask how I am.
So when I had contacted Charity X to ask for a fundraising running pack, I had thought they might follow up with me after the big day. They’d asked the details and date of my event and why I'd chosen to raise money for them. They had my email address and my home address and my motivation for doing this (horrendous and hilly) run.
Apart from sore feet, of course.
Attention to detail lacking.
We like to think that our other half will notice what we’ve done. That we’re more than a cog in a fundraising machine.
A few months after my run, the fundraising platform released the funds to Charity X. I had raised £600. Not earth shattering I know, but not insignificant either.
I received an automated email. That’s ok. That I can live with. But come on people, check your mail-merge. It was not amazing.
I know they did, in fact, know my name, because they used it later in the email body.
Taking too long to say thank you, and then getting it so so wrong
In between mistake one and two, I had made a personal donation to Charity X. The thank you letter took so long, I thought that perhaps my CAF cheque was lost in the post.
After around six weeks I finally received a thank you letter.
What on earth is a more specific thank you letter? Of course I am not going to ring them up and say, ‘hi there Charity X, please can you send me that additional letter you mention.’
I am pleased to hear you have been inundated with donations. This is great news as I believe in your work. Do I think you should have enlisted extra help to process them quickly? Possibly.
But if you're going to wait six weeks to thank me, then please make the letter worth the wait.
What a wasted opportunity.
They also spent a quarter of the letter telling me that I could make my gift go further with gift aid, and enclosed a form for me to return to them. I donated by CAF. This tells me they haven’t noticed my gift at all.
Oh, and as a last hurrah the signature was atrocious. Faded black, low res, blurred.
We have all made mistakes with donors, sent out bad mail merges, or written mediocre thank you letters.
But by now, this charity has lots of data on me. Data that should mean they are profiling me as someone who could become a regular supporter.
I sought them out to raise money for them through a run.
I have told them my personal reason for supporting them.
Soon after my run, I went on to give another personal donation.
I made my donation by a CAF cheque - ie, I have money specifically set aside to give to charity.
Charity x is a charity whose work is inspirational and deeply moving. Nothing of this has come through in any of the communications I have received from them. Worse still, I feel entirely insignificant in their fundraising machine.
Will I give to them again? Probably. Love isn’t rational is it.
But they need to start doing something right, because however much I care about the cause, this relationship is seriously on the rocks.