I received a thank you for ongoing support from a charity recently that started off with the first sentence saying “Thank you…..” but as many of us know how these things go, the real purpose comes towards the end when I’m being asked to increase my support. I felt annoyed quickly, and it gave me a reason to explore why I felt so angry about it.
Working in the charity sector myself, I know only too well how important it is to raise funds and keep them coming in, but I’m also keenly aware that as a sector we sometimes shoot ourselves in our proverbial foot. To me, this was a classic example of the latter.
By giving the initial impression of being solely a “thank you” but then turning into a classic “ask” it devalues the thank you message itself. Even the impact descriptions and the case study is not there as part of a thank you, it’s there to create guilt to leading up to the “ask”. As the recipient, I’m left with only the ask and pressure to increase my support.
If you want to thank someone, then thank them, resist adding on explicit requests otherwise it’s just not genuine. This is the same whether you are a person, business or charity. Integrity is essential on a personal level as well as an organisational one.
I also think that this form of fundraising is just pressured selling by another name and is outdated. I’m sure that it gets results, but the unintended outcome of creating dissatisfaction is hard to measure unless people cancel their support. There are softer ways to engage people, and while numerically they may not be as effective, the hard sales approach just gives all charities a bad name. Charities are often characterised as always begging for more cash and not respecting the real people that are supporting them.
Some years ago I had a call from Cancer Research UK to say thank you. I interrupted the caller to say that before we went any further, I wanted to let him know that I would not increase the subscription and his response was great. “No worries, I just wanted to let you know what a difference you are helping us to make”. I then enjoyed a short call with no strings. I asked about how the caller was linked, and they were employed by the charity, not a contracted fundraiser. This left me feeling very supportive and an advocate ever since. I can’t say that is the usual experience though…
So it’s perhaps being clear about the purpose of engagement and enabling supporters to feel valued about their contribution and providing the opportunity to review and increase their support but as a secondary call to action. If the primary purpose is to increase subscriptions, then be open and honest up front about that and why it’s essential.
As our world becomes ever more digital and systems are used to contact people in scale, we must remember that every supporter is a real person and the value of genuine, honest communications cannot be underestimated.