Fund-Raising: The Good, the Bad, the Indifferent

Errors to avoid, with thanks to readers who contributed some of these goofs:
  • Sending your year-end solicitation within a month of when the donor made his/her most recent donation.
  • Losing track of the donor's preferred title of address. Don't send me a letter that starts with "Dear Mr. Hirsch." Don't ever use "Mrs." unless you know that it's correct.
  • Claiming, even humorously, that you're the charity most worthy of receiving donations. This could be funny in boom times. In a year when employment in Alameda County is close to 12%, the economy is in the tank, and there's a lot of suffering, not funny and not persuasive coming from a small arts organization.
  • Getting the amount being donated wrong in your acknowledgement letter because, as you admitted, you based the letter on email correspondence from Party 1 rather than looking at the actual donation made by Party 2. I am never donating to your organization again, as a result.
  • Sending a solicitation email to a person who had asked four years previously to be removed from your organization's mailing lists.
  • Having a web site that makes it look as though you are buying something rather than making a donation. Confusing!
  • Sending a solicitation letter when you never sent the acknowledgement for a previous donation.
  • Rule number 2,391: If you're running a phone campaign, remember to cross off the person from your list who (this year) politely declined to donate; this in case you accidentally call them during dinner the very next evening, twice.
  • Don't send your contributors a useless gift package parcel post. If they've moved, they'll have to pay a huge postage due, as the USPS free forwarding doesn't include parcel post.
  • Sending a solicitation every month with your printed newsletter. Having a huge DONATE button in the monthly email newsletter. I unsubscribed from the email newsletter and asked to be taken off the group's mailing list.  I donated to them twice last year. Seriously, folks, make it possible for people to receive information from you that doesn't include solicitations.
  • Sending an email inviting you to a celebratory dinner that, when you click through, you discover costs $350/person. 
    • Don't make people click through. 
    • Put the price in that email so that it can immediately be round-filed.