Saturday, July 14, 2018

Don't Be This Small Non-Profit

[July 14: Pushing this to the top of the blog because of follow-ups.}

Stuff that happened to me when I tried to renew my membership in a small non-profit organization (SNP, hereafter); an object lesson in how not to treat your members.

1. I received a renewal notice by email on February 2, 2018. I sent a check to SNP on or around February 8, because I had canceled my credit card owing to a fraudulent charge and I hadn’t received the new card yet. The check went to the post office box listed on SNP's web site and in the email I received.

2. February 16 - I received another emailed renewal notice. I replied to the email, which came from info@SNP. I did not receive an answer.

3. March 4 - I received another emailed renewal notice. This time, I forward that email and a reply to membership@SNP. I did not receive an answer.

4. March 7 - I received another emailed renewal noticed. This time, I forwarded that email and a reply to treasurer@SNP. I did not receive an answer.

5. March 23 - I sent a printed letter to the president of SNP at an address where I thought the president would receive it. I was confused about something and sent it to the wrong address, but it got to the president anyway. (Small world effect, here.)

6. April 3 - I hadn't heard anything, so I sent email to membership@SNP, president@SNP, vicepresident@SNP, and treasurer@SNP just saying I had a question and could anyone answer it.

7. April 9 - I heard from the president by email, who had gotten my printed letter. The president was very apologetic and promised to contact the treasurer on my behalf.

8. April 25. - The president checked back with me to see whether I had heard from the treasurer. I had not yet heard from the treasurer, who could not find 2 minutes before heading out of town a couple of weeks ago to send an email saying "I'm on this."

Apparently my case will be discussed at the Board meeting on April 29, nearly three months after I got the first renewal notice. My check hasn't cleared my bank yet, nor has the envelope containing the check come back to me.

Update: May 3 - The Board meeting was on April 29, and several days later, nobody has gotten back to me about the status of my membership renewal.

Things that went wrong:
  • Organization says it's okay to send a check to a physical mail box that nobody monitors.
  • Organization has multiple email addresses listed on its web site that nobody checks.
  • Officer of the organization is asked to get in touch with a member, doesn't do it in a timely fashion.
  • Renewal process, which should be simple, stretches out over three months even though member attempted to pay on a timely basis.
  • Update: Board meets, is supposed to talk about this, nobody gets back to member with status report even after she sends an email the day after the meeting.
As I said, don't be this organization. No, I'm not going to tell you which organization this is.

Update: July 14, 2018

  • On April 30, I followed up.
  • On May 3, having heard nothing, I sent another follow-up.
  • On May 8, the president of SNP asked me to tell her again where I had sent my check. Note: she had this in writing and I had sent it to the address on the org's web site.
  • I told her I'd just pay my dues on line.
  • On May 10, SNP finally told me they couldn't find my check and also that they were changing the PO Box address because the person who checks it does check regularly but doesn't communicate regularly with SNP. What. The. Fuck.
  • Today, I got an email transmitting links to the quarterly newsletter of SNP, and it starts "Normally, the newsletter is only delivered to members whose dues are current, but we want to make sure that everyone is included in the excitement leading up to [event]. Enjoy this issue and plan for [event, which conflicts with an event that it's more important for me to go to]." I honestly can't tell what the problem here is: their database still thinks I haven't paid, or their cover email is totally guilt-trippy and ham-handed. I'm still trying to decide whether to send outraged email, curious email, ignore, or what.
  • SNP did indeed switch the contact address, which is now in a different city and state.
While I'm not going to disclose the name of SNP, it has 137 members in it because it does nothing to increase membership....and there are a few obvious things it could do. 


David Bratman said...

I was once chairman of the board of a small nonprofit that exhibited some of these problems, and which was the subject of constant complaints from our members. I found the relevant staff members completely impervious to suggestions that they ought actually to do the jobs they'd volunteered for, and indeed rather offended by the implication that the transparently obvious problems and the volume of complaints meant we had a problem which needed to be fixed.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Apologies for the late response - I did not get a notification of your comment, so it was published late, I am finally replying.

That's bad and frustrating. Why volunteer if you won't do the job? My SNP is...not very competent at accomplishing its business. Goodness only knows what happened to my check; it's absurd that email addresses aren't monitored; they're still charging the same income-based dues they were in 1990. My income is a multiple of what I was making in 1990 but my dues have not gone up....

That they've done nothing active to increase their membership is the silliest thing.