I wrote a post a while ago about a great fundraising experience I had. Around the same time as I received a fantastic fundraising call and was thanked brilliantly for donating, I also had an ask from another charity. It did not go so well.
Early last year I fundraised for an international development charity and raised a couple of hundred pounds. I was sponsored to eat nothing but nutrient-rich peanut paste for 24hrs (it was disgusting, like gritty putty, and I actually ate half of one portion and fasted for the rest of the day!) and sold home baked cakes to raise this money.
Then the charity merged with a much larger organisation and the brand pretty much disappeared; they handled it well and communicated with me what was happening, and that I would hear from the larger org in future instead. I thought this was a shame, but understood that these things happen. And then I started to get cash mailings from the larger org. Quite often. All asking me for hundreds of pounds. Prompting at something like £250, £300 and £350.
Oh dear. It seemed that in the merger they hadn’t been able to discern that I was a fundraiser rather than someone who had given my own money. As someone working within the sector I understand the vagaries of fundraising databases, and the challenges inherent in attempting to bring two disparate files together. Though, I thought, for supporters who don’t have that professional link, perhaps not a great experience.
So I emailed the organisation, from my work email account.
In my email I explained that I had raised rather than donated, so the prompt amounts were rather ambitious. I understand that it’s likely to be a coding issue post-merger, I said, and so perhaps it’s worth looking at those records again and amending how the prompts are generated. I explained that I was very happy to receive the mailings, but just wanted to let them know.
A couple of days later I received a reply from the supporter services team. Unfortunately there was nothing they could do to resolve this issue, it said. So they would stop sending me cash appeals instead.
I have to say I was really unimpressed by this response. I know that, had someone sent such an email to the general email at my charity, the team would have forwarded it to myself or another direct marketing colleague – and we would have replied directly, out of professional courtesy if nothing else. Had it been me, I’d have probably made some comments about the database, how it was a bit of a pickle trying to determine who had done what but we’re looking at how we can get to the bottom of it; I might even have asked what they thought of the appeal itself.
But I got a cursory reply, and they took an action that I had stated I didn’t want to happen by opting me out of mailings. Altogether pretty shoddy, I reckon.
A few weeks later I received a follow-up email – presumably part of their general quality control process – asking me to fill out a survey about how well they dealt with my query. You might not be surprised to hear that I didn’t bother to fill it in!
I have since unsubscribed from their emails, too. I didn’t have a relationship before they started sending me cash appeals, so it didn’t take much to turn me off completely. Alright, I’m just one person, but I would expect others receiving appeals with similar prompts would have been equally nonplussed. My gut says that for a cold-ish audience who may have donated £10 or £20 if the appeal and asks were right, being asked for hundreds of pounds would likely put them off giving at all; certainly I would feel like my £10 would be worthless if if been asked for £300 and would feel almost embarrassed to donate such a small amount (I’d be interested to know if anyone has seen research that says differently though!).
And to respond so flippantly to my feedback – and to ignore my request to continue receiving the mailings – well, there’s really no excuse for that. They made me feel like an insignificant piece of data on their computers. And that’s something no supporter ever wants to feel.