In his feature article in The Wall Street Journal last Friday, December 7, Joe Queenan relates his experience with the Metropolitan Museum of Art that may take the cake for ill-timed, random solicitations. With appeals like the one he describes—that donors continue to give at all is a true testament to their generosity and high-motives.
Briefly, the story goes thus. The day after Thanksgiving, Joe received from The Metropolitan Museum of Art a letter asking if he would like to “fine tune” his estate planning. Totally out-of-the-blue as he has had no prior connection with the Met and on Black Friday—of all days. Needless to say he was a bit taken aback and “racked his brain” searching for a reason he would receive such a letter. Recognition dawned when he remembered that earlier in the month, he had attained the magic Social Security retirement age of 62. Looks like back-office bureaucrats at the Met have been working overtime.
Oh—but it gets better! Apparently, what really turned Joe off was the fact that along with this clueless, tactless solicitation for assets was an envelope for the pledge card that contained no postage. His read? “Here you are telling me that I am going to die and choosing the holiday season to raise the subject of my demise and asking me to name the museum in my will and you don’t even have the common courtesy to include a stamp.” Insult to injury.
Not to pick on just the Met, Joe hastens to add that he gets the same treatment from any number of other charities. Ouch.
The Eight Principles of Sustainable Fundraising® identifies two characteristics that every prospective donor to your charitable organization must have—ability and affinity. Financial ability goes without saying, and it’s fairly easy to assess. Affinity—the emotional connection and values congruence between the donor and your charity—is just as important, if not more so. Although not as straightforward as determining financial ability nonetheless, assessing a potential donor’s affinity or connections to your organization is critical.
Principle 1 of The Eight Principles of Sustainable Fundraising® is “Donors are the Drivers.” It is donors and not the development office that is the engine that moves philanthropy forward. Putting yourself in the mind and situation of your prospective investors is essential. Remember, it’s not about us, our programs or our priorities—however worthy they may be. It’s the donors who invest in our worthy purpose and that own it with their values and resources.