People Know When the End of the Year is!!!

January 11, 2019

This is truly a pet peeve of mine. I received no less than 22 emails from various charities (local, national and international) in the last 10 days of 2018 informing me that the end of the year is coming up and that I should donate quickly to ensure a 2018 charitable income tax receipt (some even refer to this donation as ‘tax-deductible’ — which it is not in Canada, but that’s for another post). I am sure that there is not one person on those lists that are relying on these emails to inform them that the calendar/taxation year is coming to an end.

That is not a motivator for the majority of donors (myself included). I know when the end of the year is, thank you very much. Few of these emails spoke to why they needed the money and none of them spoke to why they needed the money before the end of the year.

They treated donors like ATM machines — we need money and we want it now. How insulting! I honestly don’t understand the purpose of these emails other than We want your money now.

If there were a program whereby donations would be matched by December 31st, for instance, that may be a motivator. If a program was $25,000 short of being able to start construction at the 2018 price, that may be a motivator. Donating because it’s December 31st is simply not a motivator for most people.

According to the 2000 Nationals Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participating (Canada) found that ‘tax benefit’ was at the bottom of the motivators as evidenced below. While this is an older survey, I don’t believe that the motivations have drastically changed over the years.

These end-of-year appeals that focus solely on December 31 are horribly insulting to donors. I would urge charities to examine if they are even receiving any donations from the barrage of emails that they are sending or if they are getting lost in the shuffle. I call ‘bullshit’ on all those charities who claim they are being donor-centered by sending these emails — has any donor ever thanked you for reminding them that it’s the end of the year? I believe that this comes down to laziness — the thought is that it is relatively simple to send an email to your whole database and justify it if you get one or two donations. Is this really how you want to engage your donors?

As fundraisers, we can do better to be donor-centered.