Is The Agitator wrong about the too-much-mail donor complaint?

The too-much-mail donor complaint (and how to handle it by mailing less) shows up in an interesting post in The Agitator. And it prompts a question: Is it a good idea to let donor complaints drive strategy when we may not fully understand the nature of the complaint?

First, consider a corollary. If you’d ask consumers if they receive too many advertising messages, they’d say absolutely yes. Now imagine a marketing consultant approaching Starbucks and saying, “Your customers are complaining about all those ads, but you can advertise less and still increase sales.” Now imagine Starbucks actually going for that and launching a campaign that tells its customers in their advertising, “We’re going to advertise less to you but we still expect you to buy as much or more, okay?” Even if that could work in the short term, what happens when the novelty of it quickly wears off and customer loyalty wanes? Could such a strategy be sustainable for a business or a nonprofit?

Maybe when donors say they’re getting too much mail, we’re mistakenly taking their complaint literally. Maybe they don’t mean the actual number of pieces of mail. Maybe what donors are really saying is that they’re getting too much mail that’s irrelevant to them, doesn’t convey realistic donor benefits, doesn’t convey a real impact, and doesn’t back up any of the promises with credible proof. You know, junk mail.

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3 Responses to Is The Agitator wrong about the too-much-mail donor complaint?

  1. hi, great post, thanks so much! I already commented to Nick on the Agitator about this today…

    It’s important to make a distinction between organizations that may be mailing too much and organizations that are a long way away from that, in fact they’re not reaching out enough…

    and believe me, I hear from small organizations all the time that board members think once a year is enough because they wouldn’t want to hear from an organization too much… and then they complain about the lack of funds raised… (sigh).

    if we as fundraisers do a good job saying thank you and telling donors about the impact they’re making and the fact that no gift is too small, we truly appreciate it, i’m sure donors would love to continue to hear from us…

    and, here’s a great opportunity for monthly gifts… if the donor does not wish to receive so much mail, ask if he she would like to give monthly, get limited communication and still make a huge difference!!

    • I agree that most organizations probably aren’t reaching out enough. And that the sustainer option is perfect for donors who think they’re getting too much mail — especially if the donor can dictate how often they want to give: monthly, quarterly, etc. Thanks for your comment!

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