Doing the Right Thing

So, this Covid-19 thing has everyone very concerned. And rightfully so. Where I work, we have had to temporarily lay off over 480 hard-working folks as we shuttered most of our operations. At the time, we are doing the right thing.

But, in the fundraising world, I have seen the best in people. People have been proactive in reaching out to offer help. It is times like this that your faith in humanity is reinforced.

The fundraising team has taken it upon themselves to call each and every monthly donor this week. The calls serve a couple of purposes:

  • We check in on the donor and see how they are managing. I had the privilege of speaking to an 82-year old donor and his wife. Their children live overseas. He was so very appreciative of the check-in call and was very touched when I asked him if there was anything he needed. (I offered to pick up groceries and leave them on his doorstep.)
  • The second purpose was a bit more sensitive. We didn’t want to be presumptuous and automatically charge a donor’s credit card for their monthly donation. Many people (at least in Canada) have been temporarily laid off, many have seen their investment portfolios drop in value. We asked if it was okay to keep charging the donor’s cards as planned.

So what happened?

Every single donor that I had the honor of speaking to was appreciative of the call. Every one of the donors I spoke to (save for two) kept their monthly donation. There were even donors that increased their gifts, recognizing this extraordinary situation that we find ourselves in.

What if we had done nothing?

The default position would have been to let sleeping dogs lie. Charge the credit cards and let the cards fall where they may. If donors wished to modify their gift, they would reach out to us. That would’ve been bad.

My assumption that this would have turned out badly is based on the belief that people would have considered this as a binary transaction. For example, Mrs. Smith donates $50 per month. If left to her own devices, and her circumstances were tough, she might have called in to cancel her gift. Going from $50/month to zero.

With the way I approached it, Mrs. Smith could have given a lesser amount on a monthly basis. Or, she may have agreed to pause the donation for a month or two and then get back on track. The possibilities are endless. And, at the end of the day, Mrs. Smith still feels great about her commitment to the cause.

So why is this the right thing?

Proactive communication with donors is always the right thing. Full stop.

Making up people’s minds for them is always a bad thing (unless they’re your kids).

I had more donors thank me for the call than I can count.

It’s days like today that make me truly cherish our profession.