Common-sense fundraising, or extortion?

Steve got a piece of direct mail that made him angry. He wrote about it at Oneicity blog, at Fundraising as extortion.

It was one of those “if you give now, we’ll never ask again” pieces, this one from CARE. (A number of organizations use the tactic.)

Careteaser

Steve calls this extortion, and he has some very strong arguments against it:

… CARE is making the tragic, but common, mistake of not making this acquisition kit about how I can help a person. No story of the kind of person whose life is changed. No personal connection with someone I could feed. No names. No details. Only extortion and org-centric thinking.

CARE’s made it about me not getting any more direct mail … not changing a real person’s life.

No matter what you think of this tactic, it works. It’s the winner of disciplined direct response testing. They aren’t doing it blindly or stupidly. If CARE or any of the other organizations using it were my client (none of them are), I’d have a hard time recommending that they use some other less-successful tactic. Even though I dislike this one. They are obligated to be as successful as they can be.

Nothealthyfordonors240

That said, I agree with Steve. The tactic is ugly.

It’s a tactic of desperation. It’s for organizations that can’t or won’t go to donors and prospects with meaningful, specific, compelling fundraising offers. And since they don’t go to donors with the opportunity to make the world a better place in some specific way, they have to go to the donor with something they care about — and all they have to offer is “I’ll annoy you less.” Hey, it meets a felt need!

But at what cost?

I can imagine circumstances where I’d recommend a client of mine test “we’ll never ask again” fundraising. It would be a sad day, a day when we realized we had nothing positive to offer, nothing that thrilled people any more than an infinitesimally less-full mailbox.

I hope this never happens to you either. If you’re using the tactic, I hope you’ll keep searching for a better way.

See How “We’ll never ask again” fundraising works.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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