Tricking donors into giving more is wrong … and ineffective

Recent reports of the Trump campaign’s online fundraising in the final weeks of the presidential race show how they used pre-checked boxes to subvert donors’ intent to get more revenue from them. A lot more.

Here’s just one example:

Prechecked

Read the New York Times article about it here: How Trump Steered Supporters Into Unwitting Donations.

It’s arguably not the worst thing that campaign did. But the disregard and disrespect for donors this tactic shows is breathtaking. How do they sleep?

Probably okay, explaining it as “perfectly legal” — which it is in the US. Not in the EU and a lot of the rest of the world.

If you hate your donors so much — or just think they are so unimportant that it doesn’t really matter if you scam them out of more money than they intend to give (or, in many cases, than they can afford) … you are in the wrong business.

I’m pretty confident you would never do this. But some slightly more benign versions of this trickery do show up in nonpolitical fundraising.

Like having a pre-checked “make my gift monthly” box on a single-gift page. Even if it’s not buried under a paragraph of nonsense, it’s still a con-job that counts on donors not understanding how your page works.

Or automatic “upgrading” (i.e. increasing) the amount of monthly donations.

Check out Erica Waasdorp’s post on these practices: Why Automatic Monthly Gift Upgrades Are a Bad Idea.

These scammy techniques might work in the short term, but it will destroy your relationships with donors in the long term. (It’s worth noting that a presidential campaign doesn’t really have a long term.)

And every time a fundraiser pulls tricks like these, the belief that we’re all con artists out to fleece donors becomes more common.


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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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