agency voice

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Let’s ask the consumer, “What do nonprofits do that REALLY annoy you?”

Wednesday, Feb 15, 2012

By Julia McDowell, Vice President, Management Supervisor

Have you ever received a timely thank you note from a nonprofit organization to which you donated?  At the end of the letter is there a request for more money? You aren’t alone. In a recent LinkedIn nonprofit fundraisers’ group “answers” page, the question, “What do nonprofits do that really annoy you?” was asked. The #1 answer from nearly all 100 respondents? Too much asking… and not enough communicating.

With more and more nonprofits trending towards a data-driven culture, we’ve seen many communications and marketing functions restructured and refocused to directly support development efforts on a day-to-day basis. The reason? It’s easier to sell in ideas and celebrate their success if it’s connected to an ROI. Successes based on other metrics are now falling into the I-don’t-know-what-to-do-with-it category.

While most MarCom teams always support fundraising, when the measurement of success is directly related to bringing in dollars, that causes a major shift in MarCom priorities. Traditional communications functions such as media placements and awareness are being pushed to the bottom of the priority list.

Ever since this shift in priorities, we’ve wondered if this shift in messaging is affecting the public’s perception of nonprofit organizations? Messages are more and more about giving than about what, where, when, why, and how my charity is making amazing things happen. This messaging shift might be slowly reversing all marketing has tried to build up in the past.

Below are sample responses from the LinkedIn answers page.

Uncensored Linkedin feedback:

Keep donors updated on what is going on the organization; they don’t want to hear from you just because it’s time for fundraising.

Lack of engagement for anything other than asking me for money.

My biggest pet peeve is when charities continue to ask for money but never show me, through their communications, what they’ve done with the money they have already received from me.

Update me on how the donation has been used, even if it’s an overview of the impact the non-profit has made in the last few months.

There is such a thing as too much communication, too many requests. I really lose interest in a charity if upon making my first gift I get hammered with request after request after request.  Keep it to a handful, learn the specific hot buttons and focus the ask, but please stop asking me to fund every possible event/project.

Nothing more annoying than the “thank you for your generous gift-you are the best!” letter that immediately transitions into a “please give more now”. Every nonprofit should thank their donors with no strings attached, no additional asks of invitations—just a pure thank you.

Overall, I think that the coming generation of donors is going to demand more input and control—because that’s what they’re used to in everything else, particularly in consideration of their online presence.

Most of the non-profits I know do a very poor job of telling the donors what their real needs are. They need to cast the vision, explain the needs, and then tell me how they would like me to help.

The biggest thing is not thanking for donations. I’ve been in the position where I could have done something else, sometimes bigger for an organization. But I haven’t been thanked or a thank you comes so late or worst of all—it comes packaged with another “ask” as in “thank you for your donation, won’t you give for this other event or issue?”

Don’t make your only contact with me a call or a letter asking for money. If you can’t be bothered to tell me what you do with the money or to contact me when you don’t want anything, then don’t contact me at all.

A focus in donor communications on navel-gazing, rather than the cause. For example, in a newsletter I want to read information about the cause I’m supporting, including tangible evidence of what the charity is doing toward clearly articulated cause-related goals.

The ever increasing frequency of the ask… why if I give do some orgs start to ask me for money every two weeks!

Thank me more than you ask me.

Based on the overwhelming comments, it seems that by adding an equal focus on communicating the effects of a donor’s donation, marketing and communications professionals at nonprofit groups could further solidify their value to the fundraising effort.