UPDATE: Make Life Complicated with a Policy

May 14, 2021

Four years ago, I wrote about making life difficult for donors, especially through a needless policy. I spoke of all the superfluous data sometimes you have to enter when all you want to do is support a charity. You may have to answer a myriad of seemingly irrelevant questions so that the charity can process your gift. In 2021, has this changed? Well, the short answer is no. With so many of us transacting online, our website must be user-friendly. Coupled with the fact that many peer-to-peer fundraisers raise a lot of their money online via smartphones, having a streamlined, error-free process is key.

I have seen some really great websites ask thoughtful questions. (i.e., Is this a new gift, or are you fulfilling a commitment made earlier?) If these are new donors, have someone from your organization pick up the phone and welcome the newly initiated donor to your organization. You can ask a myriad of questions then.

In the original post, I also wrote about internal policies in accepting funds that handcuff the canvasser. (I spoke of an arbitrary internal policy [created by a finance department] that required gift agreements for every gift over $1,000.) While I believe those gift agreements are a great tool, they do have a time and place. Furthermore, there is thought that magnitude comes into play. The $1,000 threshold was instituted as there were very few gifts over $1,000 for this organization. Hopefully, our efforts paid off, and a gift of $1,000 was no longer a rarity.

Practically Speaking

In this pandemic (and post-pandemic, depending on where you live) world, technology is leading the way. Just ask yourself how many gifts have come to your organization via check? I would say that it is a mere fraction of what it was in 2019. And cash is all but non-existent. Folks, it’s 2021 — if you don’t have a proper website presence (with the ability to take and receipt donations), GET MOVING!!!! My father used to always tell me that you only have one chance to make a first impression. If donors (or potential donors) visit your website and leave in frustration, you have blown your chance, and they are unlikely to return for a second bite of the apple.

Customer service is what separates a great business from a good business. By the same token, stewardship (which includes pre-solicitation activities) is what separates a great nonprofit from a good nonprofit. As an experiment, go ahead and donate $10 to 5 different charities that you know of and note the ease (or lack thereof) of facilitating that donation. Then, see what happens to the $10 as it makes its way through the organization. Are you thanked for the donation promptly? Are you welcomed to the organization as a first-time donor? What else happens (or doesn’t happen, as the case may be). They say that imitation is the highest form of flattery. Take your lessons learned and apply them to your own organization. THAT is a policy worth having.

Next weekend is the long weekend, so there will not be a posting.