Tuesday, September 15, 2009

i'm sorry, 826

The guilt.

As part of my job, I advise nonprofit organizations on donor relations. The general message is that donors — because they're people — like to hear "thank you" and that, increasingly, donors like to feel they are integral to helping an organization to meet its mission, not just by giving money but as ambassadors for the organization or the cause. The latter is a notion that predates Barack Obama's presidential campaign, but is easily illustrated by the campaign's purposeful decision to frame their messages using the collective pronoun (we), suggesting all Americans had a role to play in changing the direction of our country.

"We are the ones we've been waiting for, we are the ones we seek."

When I have my donor hat on, this is what I am hoping for from the organizations to which I give my money. I don't just want to write a check, I want to feel engaged. And, yeah, I should just be able to revel in the reward that comes from knowing I've contributed to achieving a mission in which I believe,


(That was a set up. A long one.)

I'm feeling really guilty this morning. Over the weekend, having not heard from 826 — after making a (in my world) significant contribution to them — I sent the organization an email with some advice on donor relations and letting them know they had lost me because they had simply neglected to say thank you.

(I suck.)

Yesterday, Lauren Hall, the organization's Development Director, sent me an email to apologize for not being in touch sooner.

"I would like to follow up soon, maybe you would consider talking with me on the phone? I feel awful about all of this. The truth, like I stated below, is that our individual donors are our livelihood, and in the past we have prided ourselves on our effusive donor appreciation. It's just that yours was delayed…Your donation was the talk of the WEEK, completely lifting our spirits and inspiring our work. We are so grateful for the exposure that you've afforded us with heartfelt mentions on your blog. All of this has been incredibly exciting and motivating, and I'm sorry it's taken us a minute to let you know all this!"

(Have I mentioned how much I suck? Did you notice she said it took "a minute" to get back to me?)

Then, last night, when I got home, there was a nice little package for me from 826, which it seems they mailed before I sent my email. A t-shirt, buttons, a couple of publications put out by the organization and a handwritten note signed — not just by one staff member, but four — including a suggestion that I come by and visit them if I am ever in San Francisco.

Hey, 826, consider this my apology for my impatience. You do a great job with donor relations. Now get back to work doing what you do and stop worrying about me and my whining. You've got me for life.

If you want to make a donation to 826 and promise not to give Lauren a hard time for not getting back to you immediately, then head this way.


phonelady said...

wow interesting post . I love it and take care .

foobella said...

I'm sure a few of us have had similar experiences at some point in our lives. Don't sweat it. You're only human. =)

That being said, this reminded me of a quote I read somewhere, which I can't seem to find right now, but after a short google search I found another one that is similar:

"I have come to the conclusion that charity is only charity when you give goods, services or money without personal gain, benefit or recognition of any kind. True charity is anonymous. It begins and ends within your self."

-author Jim Pinto

Kat Scratch said...

i have done that a few times. you are just like, oh oops sorry!

hey, at least you are vocal about your unjustified anger and how you feel like shit now.

Art said...

There's a theme here. John Hughes sent you a form letter, you wrote back a snippy one and became his pen pal. Now with this organization they failed to send you any acknowledgment at all, so you sent them a snippy letter, and they've sent you a gift basket of hand-wringing appreciation.

Maybe you should offer classes in writing snippy letters.

abf said...

Art, I only tell you about the positive outcomes. There's a whole pile of "screw you's" in response to my snippiness.

Seriously though, the email to 826 was about giving them advice — that they didn't need. AND, I am under the impression that they sent the gifts BEFORE I sent the email, based on the postmark.

Anonymous said...

Funny how we all view things so differently! I dislike receiving ANY attention to donations so much, that I have now had separate checks made that reads "Donation Check / Prefers to remain anonymous." I have little to give, and I careful choose whom to gift, and it annoys the heck out of me when I start receiving mailings and then mailings from others who got the list. It is just so much wasted time, money and resources, not to mention the environmental impact. I WANT my donations to have an impact where it was intended!

Christy Brewer said...

Okay, I just found your blog via Spike Jones and (he'll kill me for this!) Twitter.

I'm now a fan of your simply because of your support of 826. We have a chapter here in Ann Arbor, and it's a fabulous organization.

As the mother of two children who hate to write and will be attending 826 workshops, THANK YOU.

So there. ;-)