Friday, November 19, 2010

Not Making Cents

So, I'm checking my emails on my BlackBerry today and I see a message from a nonprofit organization. 

Now, as some of you know, my day job is that of a fundraising professional for a nonprofit. Because I do what I do (and have for 20 years), I tend to look at the communications and fundraising strategies of other organizations from a completely different perspective than most people. 

The email stated that the charity really could use some help this holiday season.  Um ... well, is there any charity that can't use a little extra at this time of year, in the middle of a never-ending recession that has impacted many nonprofits (and other businesses)?   I don't know too many charities that are doing just fine, thank you. 

The author of the email went on to say that she hoped I would write a blog post about their organization, or tweet about them, because the readers of The Betty and Boo Chronicles might be interested in helping kids. 

Now, I have all the faith in the world that my 3 readers of this blog are, in fact, caring people who would like to help kids.  You might even want to support this particular charity, or perhaps you have in fact written them a check in the past.

Here's the thing, though:  I haven't. 

Other than recognizing their name, I have absolutely zero connection with this organization.  None. 

I've never made a contribution. 

I don't Like them on Facebook. I don't follow them on Twitter. 

I've never been to their website.

I don't know anyone who is involved in this organization.  I don't know the author of the email, and I don't know how she knows of me.  (Has she read my development-related tweets, especially today's from a conference I was at and tweeting about?  Is she a regular reader of my blog? Do we have a mutual colleague in common?) 

So, this is where my absolute flabbergasted-ness over this solicitation comes into play.  Given my complete disconnect from this admittedly worthy group and cause, how does this even make any iota of sense? How can I endorse something that I know nothing about or ever been a part of?

Sure, I could write you a nice post saying that the XYZ organization is great, they do great work, look at their fancy banner and microsite, you can follow them on Twitter and like them on Facebook, you should donate some money to them RIGHT NOW.

I could say all of those things, but there's a key credibility issue here - again, because I am not involved with this group.  I don't know that they're not cooking their books.  I don't know their ratio of administrative costs to program costs.  And, frankly, I'm not inclined to do the research to find out such because there are other causes that I do support and that I am closely connected to. 

In this economy, donors are limiting the number of organizations they support because there's too great of a need and too few resources and funds.  So one's philanthropic decisions are made on the basis of connections - which organization you're connected with, charities that have helped you or a loved one out.

Donors are sophisticated and much smarter than ever before.   We have more tools at our disposal. You can tell when someone is bullshitting.  You know when someone is just paying lip service to a cause, when someone doesn't have the passion.  And similarly, you know when someone does. 

That's what powers real, authentic, genuine fundraising.  That's what will get you the big bucks.  Not an ill-conceived tactic that smacks of "let's-find-some-of-these-you know-these whaddaya call it's? Mommy bloggers, they are, people with kids, and see if they will write about how great we are. We'll raise tons of money.")

We'll all finding our way in this "new normal."  As fundraisers, we're all chasing that proverbial pot of gold at the end of the URL, trying to figure out how to raise money through this newfangled social media thing-a-mah-bob. 

But it's really not all that difficult or all that much more different than what we were doing long before Al Gore invented the Internet. 

It's about trust.  Ethics. Credibility. 


That's what has always made sense.

And cents. 

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.


Anonymous said...

Bravo. My day job is as communications coordinator for a (very) small nonprofit, and I agonize all the time over our messaging. I would never send out something like that to someone not intimately connected with our mission.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I too am flabbergasted at that. I am a fundraiser as well, and can't imagine ever doing something like that. VERY weird, and honestly? It would make me wonder about the organization...

Amy said...

How very weird! I could see, for example, if my favorite charity that I donated to regularly contacted me - but not one I've never worked with!