Sign the enclosed placenta: The weird power of errors in fundraising

Don’t you hate making errors? They make you look and feel stupid.

But errors are funny things. It’s impossible to predict what damage they’ll do. Surprisingly often, they hurt your pride a lot more than they hurt anything else.

Since I know you like to gloat about other people’s errors (well, I like to gloat, so I think you might also), here are some examples of painful errors I’ve been part of through the years:

  • Two embarrassing typos: We meant to say, “Sign and return the enclosed placemat.” What we got was, “Sign and return the enclosed placenta.” Second: a “Fill the Pantry” campaign somehow became “Fill the Panty” (I’ve heard from quite a few people who have suffered this exact error!)

    Result: No discernible difference in response from normal. A couple of donors sent back the errors (with their donation) pointing out the typos.
  • The unreadable newsletter: We produced a multi-page newsletter, and the printer failed to trim the paper correctly before mailing it. The tops of some of the pages were connected so the only way to read the inner pages was to tear them apart.

    Result: The newsletter performed quite a bit better than projections.
  • Mixed up letter: To lower costs, we produced two direct mail pieces for two different clients using the same specifications. The printer got confused so that Client A’s letter had Client B’s page 2. And vice versa. Meaning everyone got letters that dramatically changed topic mid-sentence.

    Result: The initial appeal for both clients performed as we’d originally projected. And a handful of donors called or wrote to complain about the error. Response to the apology letter was strong, better than the initial appeal. Meaning we more than doubled revenue to the project because of the error. (It was the printer’s fault so the apology letter was at no cost to us.)

So errors don’t necessarily kill you.

But I don’t want to give the impression that you can be cavalier and sloppy and just let the errors happen.

There’s a class of error that pretty much does kill you. That’s when something happens that makes it difficult or confusing for donors to respond. Like inserting the wrong return envelope. Or a dead link to the landing page. Or an incorrect phone number.

Those errors will get you, big time.

Takeaways:

  • Not all errors are the end of the world.
  • Some, though, kind of are.
  • It’s worthwhile to apologize for errors.
  • Some errors are hilarious, even though they’re upsetting.

A slightly different version of this post first appeared on the Moceanic Blog.


Comments

Leave a Reply

What this blog is about

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.

Blog policies

Subscribe

Get new posts by email:

About the blogger

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.


Archives

Blogroll

Categories


Search the blog

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.

Recent Comments

About the blogger

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.

Blog Roll

someone’s blog