Friday, April 1, 2016

Don't be a fool to donor communication sameness

Every day, donors check their email, open their mailboxes and inside find communications from you and your organization. Far too often, these donors are experiencing a feeling of deja vu. Imagine, after a 15 day trip coming home to find this in your mail. 


But wait, you gave online to all of these organizations, why are they peppering you with the dreaded number ten envelope? And inside you find long letters of 2-4 pages filled with underlining and such but you've just come home, do you have time to even read them? Probably not. And Lo and behold, inside is a return envelope. What should you do with that when you only give online with your credit card? This sameness, this lack of understanding of a donor must stop. 

From gimmicks like membership cards that say "display proudly in your wallet" to address labels and claims of urgency, all of these tricks make a donor question, "why are they doing this?" 

Why are they doing this twice in one month? You see it makes us all seem the same. It lumps us all into one very crowded bucket of organizations who ask ask ask. And where is the pile for the donor of the thank yous? Let me show you a photo of that. 


Yup, that's right there isn't one. Because our sameness requires us to act like everyone else and not do that because it doesn't generate revenue. 

How do we combat sameness? What's the point of being different? Well if you listen to luminaries like Seth Godin in the Purple Cow or Adam Grant in Originals, being different is our competitive advantage. It's what sets us apart and motivates others to follow and join our movement.

What if every day you did something out of the norm to honor your donors? What if Every time sameness occurred at your organization you questioned the status quo, on behalf of your donors? I know this seems bold and a bit like a joke, but why not? What do you have to lose? At least if you did something different, you wouldn't end up in a pile like this:

 That's 37 pieces of mail in the last 3 weeks.

Take a risk, take a chance, today's the day to start being different. Embrace different, shun conformity and understand that you an make a difference today. What are your thoughts? How do you combat sameness at your organization? What prevents change in your shop?


  1. We send out three appeals per year. First is the traditional letter, but with images and a theme. Second is a post card that reflects the theme and allows folks to give on line. Our third appeal is totally different, self folding, catchy quotes, etc. If someone gives at any stage, they do not receive subsequent appeals. They do continue to receive event invites and our newsletter. So we try and mix it up.

    1. I would love to see a sample of your third appeal. any way to share directly? My email is Thanks!

    2. I would love to see a sample as well. My email is

  2. Thank you for this post! I so agree. Orgs keep sending these letters because they say they work. But how are we measuring success? I suspect by looking at tiny differences in income from individual mailings rather than measuring the long term value and commitment of donors. Donors say they hate receiving the barrage of mail solicitations, and our sector essentially responds with "you don't really know what you want." How condescending. And even worse when a donor asks to change communication preferences (e.g. online only) and that request is ignored.
    -Heather Eady

  3. I would love to see it as well Heather.