For the causes I believe in, I make sure that I donate money to show my support and do my part to help those organizations carry out their missions. I’m sure this is why everyone donates to their personal causes — to see their money put to good use.
I used to write checks a few times each year but then realized that both myself and the organization would benefit if I simply allotted a certain budget per month and put those payments on a credit card as recurring monthly expenses. Easier for me and better for the organization because they can cut their solicitation marketing costs when they can rely on recurring donor income. Converting ad hoc donors to recurring donors is nonprofit fundraising nirvana.
Or, so I thought.
I started doing this last year. Since then only one or two nonprofit organizations have purged my name from their mailing lists because I’m still receiving those costly direct mail packages from most of the other nonprofits.
Because this is what happens when your operations and marketing are not in sync. It would be so easy to create a procedure such that each time an ad-hoc donor switched and became a recurring credit card donor, the marketing department be notified so they pull those names off of the solicitation lists.
What kind of sucker am I?
Show me a furry face and you can count on getting a check from me. At this point, it’s likely that my contact information is on every animal rescue organization list in the country. After I switched over to these recurring donations, I wanted to close one of my credit card accounts and consolidate all donations onto one card. The problem? There was one organization that did not return phone calls or respond to my email requests to switch my credit card on file. I even printed out the email I’d written and snail-mailed it to them. That was sometime last year. Still, no response. I now have one credit card statement each month with one very small charge. But I just don’t have the heart to cut them off. Blame the furry faces.
And, another thing.
Each year, to show my appreciation and support, I order holiday cards from a nonprofit that has played a big part in my life. Each year, it’s a hassle and gets worse. Their website is a mess — it’s literally impossible to create an order the first time you try. Their paper order form stapled inside their brochure is so convoluted and the boxes so small, combined with their very long SKU numbers doesn’t work either. Then, if you call, it’s likely their phone system will tell you to leave a message that never gets returned.
Yet, I persisted.
One day I finally got a very nice rep on the phone who took my holiday card order. During this long, arduous phone process (I think she was handwriting everything), we had a chat and I told her how frustrated I was and asked that she pass the word along. She sighed and said ‘Yes, I know. I hear that a lot.’ How terrible for everyone involved. The worst sin here is that the recipients of this nonprofit’s good works (such as animals in need, hungry children, disease organizations, etc.) don’t get what they need because well-meaning, would-be donors give up. I followed up in an email offering to work with them, but no reply.
Can this be fixed?
Yes! Yes! And, another yes! Accounts receivable should pull a list each month of any customers whose credit cards are charged each month, and send the list to the marketing department so these names can be purged from their mail house solicitation lists. Because direct mail packages are often in production months in advance, it’s possible a donor will get one more, but it shouldn’t take more than that.
I can’t say this strongly enough, put yourself in your customer’s place and do lots of user testing on your website, your phone system, your paper order forms, and more. Ask colleagues, coworkers, family, and friends to test the daylights out of your order forms, links, ordering process, bounce back confirmations…really, EVERY communication point…to ensure flawless execution.
The investment in this can be done in phases and does not have to cost a fortune; the long-term advantages are so very worth it.
Those cute furry kittens and puppies get fed, the nonprofit saves on acquisition costs, the bank saves on monthly billing, and the donor isn’t put off by continual solicitations. The only loser is the Post Office’s drop in postage revenue.
In an age when nonprofit organizations need more resources than ever, this is really important to get right.
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