Friday, November 11, 2016

Bad Decisions with Donors- THASKING!

At times, we all have to take a step back, look at the work we are doing and wonder if we are doing the right thing. We see behavior replicated in the fundraising industry all the time that makes our stomachs turn just a little too much. What are you doing to help solve the problem? I am on a one woman mission to end one of the most frustrating, non donor-focused, retention killing practices of all time, the THASK. That's a word I made up, true as it may be. It's when an organization goes out to communicate with its donor base and sends them a thank you only to ruin it by not resisting the urge to ask for more. See a theme here? We just can't help ourselves. But we MUST. We have to stake a stand against thasking and do the right thing. Imagine if you had someone in your life that every time they talked to you, wanted something from you. They wouldn't be in your life for too long now would they? Here are some of the egregious examples of thasks I've received this week. They make me queasy.

This behavior is wrong. You sent me a Thanksgiving card with an envelope in it? You sent me a survey telling me how much you value me and my opinion, then when I completed the survey, sent me to a link asking me for $5000? What gives, fine people in nonprofit land? I picked three of these but I have a stack of over 20 thasks I've received in the last two months. What if we did this in our everyday life? A guy holds a door open for me, I say thank you then immediately follow him around town and stand behind him waiting for him to do it all day? Someone gives you a present for your birthday and you in the thank you note tell them that Christmas is coming and they shouldn't forget you on their list? Whaaaaaat? If you wouldn't do it in your daily life, why is this ever acceptable in your relationship with a donor? 

Folks it's time we took a stand against this vile behavior. Is your organization thasking? Time to find out and put some energy into stopping it. I've heard all sorts of excuses for doing this from nonprofits: 
              It's a convenience so they can make their next gift- 
              It works, we get in donations this way-
              If we don't ask them, they won't give-
              A vendor told me it works-

Look at your retention- is it under 50%? If it is, oversoliciation and thasking is a key answer. Look at your soul- is this how you want your donors to think of you? Look at how you feel when you see these- does it make you feel warm and fuzzy inside or like someone is trying to fool you?

Let's hear it- are you pro thasking, or against it? Send me your examples, your thoughts and your attmpts to kill this disturbing practice. I can't wait to hear from you.

It's time to take a stand. On behalf of our donors, kill the thask.



  1. Thask-ing...just say no! Interested to see the "why" behind some of these. My guess is that they are avoiding a secondary conversation. "We include the envelope in the thank you note to remind them to give their year-end gift". Well, then remind them to make their year end gift then send them a note of true gratitude when they do.

  2. I'm lucky to have a strong no-thask culture where I am, but thasking does get proposed from time to time. These proposals seems to surface in contexts where there's a kind of misplaced paranoia about missing out on gifts, e.g., "The donors who get this thank you will be so inspired by it that they'll be willing to make another gift. We need to tap this momentary flash of inspiration and translate it into dollars by suggesting they donate right then and there, and make it as easy as possible for them to do it."

    Perhaps its unfair, but I associate thasking proposals with well-intentioned people who come from direct marketing backgrounds. They're remembering the old saying, "What is one of the most common reasons a donor didn't make a gift? They weren't asked." These people forget that the fact that we're sending an expression of gratitude means that the donor has ALREADY made a gift.

    Thasking stems from a transaction-driven view of fundraising, instead of a relationship-driven one. Our donors have the potential for years of increasing engagement, loyalty, and generosity - they are so much more than tomorrow's return envelope.

  3. Awesome work Lynne! This blog is a huge educational format and public charity life saver. I appreciate your teaching style as the founder & executive director of a U.S.A. nonprofit; Grief Comfort Inc. Continue to keep us on our toes!

  4. I think you just saved me from hitting the "askphalt" with this one, Lynne. Thanks! :-)

  5. Agreed! We just sent out our Thanksgiving/holiday greeting card, thanking donors for their support of the children and families we serve. No ask. No return envelope. No survey. Just a simple thank you. We did this last year and actually DID receive a couple donations in response to the card, but that was not our goal. Our goal was simply to let our donors know that we are grateful for their support. We wouldn't be where we are today without them!

    I was fortunate enough to attend your workshop when you visited Erie, PA - you are right on target with the whole concept of the "thask." And your example of the birthday present/Christmas-is-right-around-the-corner scenario is a great way to explain it!

    Stephenie DiLuzio
    Sarah A. Reed Children's Center
    Erie, PA

  6. At our organization, our membership department has an ask at the end of every tax acknowledgment. They feel it is very successful because they've raised over $400k using it. There are indicators that our long-time donors are unhappy with the heavy solicitation approach the organization has recently adopted, and retention has dropped in that group. So, membership did adjust their approach and reduce their solicitations ... but they are keeping the thask.

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