How NOT to get my money

For me to write this column at this time of the year may seem unduly  Scroogish to many readers.  But when better to consider this issue?  Between the holidays and the rush to make the end of the calendar year, I get more fundraising mailings in the final quarter of the year than even catalogues.  Two weeks ago, I spent the better part of a Sunday bent over a shredder.

With so many worthy institutions vying for a slice of my donation brownie (not big enough to call it a “pie”), I can’t begin to give to them all.  And for those to which I feel a strong commitment, unless I  make the very hard decision to pick only one each year and donate all my money to that one, my giving is limited in amount and dictated by pay periods.  This being said, if you work for a not for profit, here are the best ways to NOT get my money.

Send Money

It’s simple.  I don’t send money to you if you send money to me.  My donations are, sadly, small.  If my entire donation is going towards nickels to send to other potential donors to guilt them into donating, that’s not a charitable request — it’s a chain letter.

Send Stuff

You make me angry — not guilty — by wasting precious donation money on junk.  Piggy banks with your logo, slogan-imprinted totes and potholders that don’t survive a second usage, sheet metal crucifixes…  And since it is such junk, you’re also clogging up landfills.  Together this equals irresponsibility, which is not a characteristic I’m looking for in charitable institution.


Labels, bookmarks, notepads, calendars….Great. More stuff to shred.  Not only does this irritate me, but it’s short-sighted — every hour I spend destroying stuff that might compromise my identity is an hour  I’m not doing things that might eventually bring me more money to donate.

Call Me a “Member”

Sadly, this is the habit of a number of extremely worthy organizations.  Clearly their consultant has decided this generates a sense of inclusiveness and community.  Not for me.  I’m not a “joiner.”  And calling me a “member” won’t make me one.  I’m a donor.  We don’t get together to share secret handshakes and bad punch.  I don’t have a personal relationship with your staff or volunteers, good and generous people though they undoubtably are.  I simply support your work, and want it to continue.  Telling me my “membership is about to expire” is putting on a cheesy kind of pressure that makes me want to run far away from you and your good work.

Put Me On the Wrong Mailing List

Be honest — you spend at least as much money on fundraising as you actually funnel into your cause; the competition for donations means you pretty much have to.  So I know you have the technology to be selective.  Buying lists?  Of course you are!  Just buy the RIGHT ONES.  It’s not enough to purchase a list of people who give something to anything — you want lists of people who give to funds with synergy to yours, or subscription lists to periodicals with similar demographics. So say that’s exactly what you do?   So what’s with all the begging letters phrased with prayers, and decorated with angels and crucifixes? I am SO not that target audience.

Overdo It

Finally, to those organizations I support with all my heart and wish I could support with deeper pockets.  Ease up on the mailings. You keep your donor notes on a computer — you know my giving pattern. Every time you send me a mailing weeks after I’ve sent you a check, you move right to the end of the list.