Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Solicitations The Good, but mostly The UGLY

This week I received two mail solicitations from two completely different organizations. One was from Susan G. Komen for the Cure and one was from a former employer and my graduate school. What is so enlightening and thought provoking is just how off base both of them were! It truly demonstrated to me that solicitations, just like donor relations, needs to be thoughtful, purposeful and relevant to the audience.

Let’s examine them both as case studies:

First I received what we will call the “mid level” solicitation. As all of you know, I am studying and writing and presenting on mid level donors a great deal lately and even wrote a blog post on the subject a while back. This was a form letter; addressed properly at least, that was “written” by a student. In it, I was asked to make a $1885 commitment for 4 years. A solid mid level ask and a commitment, considering my last and largest gift to them was $150 when I was still employed and enrolled there. This letter was impersonal, unattached and clearly was pulled off of some sort of LYBUNT or SYBUNT list. On the back of the letter they had printed a “honor roll of donors” of those who had joined this giving society by making this commitment they were asking me to make.

I was instantaneously turned off. Reasons why follow:

1. The letter was impersonal and came out of seemingly “nowhere” I haven’t received an email, no invitations, nothing except this ask in a long while!
2. That level of ask shouldn’t come through a letter in my opinion, I mean, can I get a phone call, a visit, something, before you ask me for the equivalent of $7500??
3. Listing others who have given at that level does nothing for me, except make me think that they have plenty of donors at this already, including all of the trustees.
4. If they had engaged me digitally, or at all, to gauge my interests and learn more about me as a donor and person before sending this blind solicitations, I might have been more receptive.
Needless to say I won’t be joining the cause.

Second I received a really pretty envelope from Susan G. Komen for the Cure and instantly I saw the address labels peeking out from inside. Sigh. Address labels really? Inside was a letter and flyers for how I could buy magazine subscriptions for $10 a piece and support their cause. Again, I was instantly turned off, here’s why:

1. Address labels, really?? It’s 2011, I pay my bills online, and rarely do I need my return address, if I do I just write it in- jeesh! How old fashioned!!
2. How “ungreen” of them! Think of the thousands of these they mailed out wasting paper and money-
3. Could you please solicit me by email or online? That is the way I live and if you knew that, you would never mail to me
4. Ordering magazines? Really, seriously? I am philanthropic to a cause, to support something I believe in, not to get discounted magazines, and did I mention that I read most of my magazines online now?

So now that I’ve complained sufficiently and told you why I won’t be giving to these two, let me tell you about a wonderful solicitation I received on Monday. One of my friends is doing a walk for the March of Dimes. I received a personal email from an old college buddy (and facebook friend), including a video pulling at my heartstrings and he told us in that email why he is walking. Did I give? Absolutely. For many reasons:
1. It was digital, lord knows he didn’t send me a letter! It was multimedia, including a video!
2. It was personal, directed at me…
3. I already had a relationship with this person and this isn’t the only time he talks to me, to ask me for money!!
4. I felt connected to his story and understood why it meant a great deal to my friend.
5. I knew my money was needed and wasn’t wasted on superfluous things like address labels!


  1. Reading this post I thought, "wouldn't it be nice to have all donors respond to us in this way?" But I think that's your point - non-profits need to be strategic and efficient about who they solicit donations from and not waste time on long shots. It's more fun for the donors that way, and resources are allocated much more efficiently.

  2. solicitation is the name of a crime, an inchoate offense that consists of a person offering money or induce another to commit a crime with the specific intent that the person solicited commit the crime.

    Solicitation Letters

  3. I have mixed feelings on the matter: was this your undergraduate alma mater?

  4. I feel like the including address labels practice has been getting a lot of press lately! I keep seeing it mentioned in blogs. As fundraisers we have to think about the possibility of alienating donors with this practice, even if it statistically "works."

    Dear Abby readers had a lot to say about address labels and I wrote about that here: