Know When to Stop Asking for Money

When it comes to sound fundraising practice, it is essential to know who to ask for donations, what to ask for, when to ask, where to ask, how to ask, and why you are asking. That should all be obvious.

However, it is also important for you to know when to stop asking for money.

There are many reasons that a fundraising professional should not ask for a charitable donation. Let me give you just one quick example. I want to share a story mega-philanthropist Peter Benoliel told me.

Benoliel said that development professionals should avoid silly mistakes like sending multiple copies of the same appeal, sending a form appeal to a donor who has just made a gift, or ignoring a donor who is in the middle of a multiyear gift commitment.

I asked him for an example. He shared that he was annoyed with one particular charity that sent him a letter asking him to include the organization in his Will. He explained that he had received this letter well after informing the charity that he had already included it in his estate plan.

Benoliel, a sophisticated donor and winner of the Planned Giving Council of Greater Philadelphia Legacy Award for Planned Giving Philanthropist, felt that the unnecessary re-solicitation revealed a lack of appreciation for his support. At the very least, it indicated that the charity failed to properly handle vital details.

Even if he was willing to forgive the mistake, he worried that other legacy donors might not be as forgiving and, therefore, the error could prove costly for the charity. More importantly, if that happened, it would be harmful to those the charity serves.

When fundraising, it is essential to handle the details well. That certainly involves effectively asking for donations. However, fundraising involves so much more. As Benoliel’s story demonstrates, it also involves proper record keeping, successful purging of mailing lists, and appropriate displays of appreciation.

Regarding that last point, I encourage you to take to heart the words of philosopher and poet Henri Frederic Amiel:

Thankfulness is the beginning of gratitude. Gratitude is the completion of thankfulness. Thankfulness may consist merely of words. Gratitude is shown in acts.”

Showing proper thankfulness and gratitude will help maintain the donor’s commitment and could also lead to additional support.

When the relationship is handled properly, it is certainly acceptable to ask a planned gift donor for another current or planned gift. Consider what H. Gerry Lenfest, another mega-philanthropist, has said on the subject:

[W]e do want to know that the organizations we support appreciate our philanthropy and will use our gift in the way we intend. So, do not make the mistake of forgetting about us once you receive our gift commitment. We may truly appreciate how efficiently and effectively you handle contributed funds so much that we entrust you with another planned gift.”

You can also make additional appeals to current donors for additional current gifts. However, the same rules apply. You need to recognize the previous support, show gratitude, and have a strong case for asking for another donation.

Donors are not bank machines to be tapped whenever you want. Fundraising involves much more than just asking for money. Before asking someone to give, stop and make sure you know whether they’ve already given. Furthermore, if your prospect has previously supported your organization, make sure that you have shown appropriate gratitude before asking for additional support. And, for goodness sake, do not ask people to make a gift they’ve already made unless you do so intentionally, you make sure it’s appropriate, and you show appreciation for prior support.

What are some of the special ways you show donors gratitude?

That’s what Michael Rosen says… What do you say?

8 Comments to “Know When to Stop Asking for Money”

  1. Great piece. I have an article that should be coming out soon on Charity Channel that speaks about the need for good data management. As for thanking people, see my thoughts in this blog post https://i5fundraising.com/giving-meaningful-thanks/.

    • Sophie, thank you for sharing your link. When your data management piece is posted, please let me know. Sadly, sound data management is often the overlooked part of the fundraising process. Nevertheless, as we both agree, it’s critical to fundraising success.

  2. Some great anecdotes and some terrific advice.

  3. Two weeks ago, I donated on-line to a public radio show during their fund drive and received an email thanking me. Yesterday, I received a generic appeal. The timing was off, and I felt a twinge of feeling unappreciated. This was a reminder for me to be hyper-alert in my appeals.

    • Madeline, thank you for sharing your own story. Data management can be tricky. Sometimes, simple timing can be the blame as a gift comes in just as the next appeal is going out. In that circumstance, I suspect most donors would be understanding. However, the greater the time between a gift and the next appeal, the less forgiving I think they’re likely to be.

  4. My husband died 23 years ago, and I still get phone calls and direct mail asking him for money. As a fundraising professional, I let them know that they are using donor lists that have not been updated for 23 years! They respond with condolences, so they do not understand my point. It’s not about making me feel badly about my husband’s death; it is that they are using ancient lists!

    • Abby, thank you for sharing your experience. I’m with you. Whenever a charity I support makes a mistake, I’m less concerned about how it affects me while I’m more worried about how it might be affecting other donors. If they make a mistake involving just me, it’s not such a big deal. However, if they make the same mistake with many others, it could prove quite costly. Maintaining good records is essential.

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