I am a generous and humble man who wants to help sad poor people. This is why I give money to charity. If you help sad poor people, I might also give your organization money. But I have high standards, so I usually give initial donations to test organizations’ responses. Sure, $100 may not be much, though I believe one should be able to purchase at least 10 bananas with that amount. After making the initial donation, I wait in the shadows like a philanthropic hawk to see how charities treat me, which will determine whether I will give them more in the future.
I have been very disappointed to say the least. Some nonprofits don’t respond at all. Some wait excessively long periods of time before getting back to me. One time I had to wait a whole month like an animal for a handwritten thank-you note. Another organization received a huge grant from another donor, and I expected them to know immediately how that money would affect their operations, and more importantly, how it would affect me. My various attempts demanding answers were met with silence. In fact, across multiple charities I donate to, all seem to be avoiding communicating with me, which can only mean they are all no-good, very bad.
Do these nonprofits think their work helping people is more important than stewarding their donors and responding to our needs? Am I not as important as these “homeless veterans,” “refugees fleeing poverty and violence,” and other assortments of non-donors? Did Jesus not say the poor will always be around, but donors are precious and few and must have our feet washed or something?
I don’t want to cast a negative light on all nonprofits. Some are great. One nonprofit, for example, gave me treats, a tummy rub, and scritches behind the ear when I dropped by the other week to visit the impoverished waifs in their program. If you can’t get good scritches and tummy rubs, what’s the point of donating?
For the charitable organizations that want to improve their relationships with donors like me, here is how they can go about doing that:
Be prompt in your responses: Whenever you get a donation, immediately stop whatever you’re doing, such as helping a child find food during the summer or saving democracy or whatever your mission is, and make sure the donor feels properly thanked.
Have ongoing communications with donors: We don’t just want to hear from you when you need money, which seems to be curiously often. However, it’s important to honor donors’ wishes and communication preferences. For example, I only want to receive emails on Tuesday afternoons and phone calls when the moon is full.
Build relationships with your donors: You do this by taking an interest in your donors’ lives, hopes, dreams, favorite foods, childhood traumas, phobias, and the deepest most profound pining they hold in the bosoms of their philanthropic hearts.
Respect donor intents: I don’t want any of my money to be spent helping kids named Brian because one time in school a kid named Brian stole my lunch. I’m sure there are lots of decent children named Brian, but it can be other donors’ passion and intent to help them.
Be transparent how you use donations: Every donor has a right to know down to the penny how and when their money was used and toward what end. What percentage of my donation was used on electricity? Did some of this money go to staff pay? If so, which staff, how much, and what did they spend this portion of their wages on? I hope it’s not caviar or fancy CD players, because I don’t want my money going to those things.
Let donors know the impact of their gifts: Whenever I buy something from a catalog, I know exactly what I’m getting. Charities should operate the same way. How many impoverished people did my donation benefit? Three? Who are they? How many bowls of gruel did my money provide them? Is any of them named Brian?
Let donors meet the people you’re helping: Invite donors to your office and make sure a few clients are there so we can see how sad and poor they are. Even if some of us aren’t currently donating, if you keep parading people down on their luck to us, maybe we may donate in the future, you never know.
Cut down on overhead: While you build personal relationships with every donor, respond to each donation and inquiry in a timely manner, account for where each donor’s dollar is being spent, organize tours so I can meet the downtrodden masses my money is supporting, and express constant gratitude to me while running your programs, make sure you keep overhead to a minimum.
Get many smaller gifts: It is best to get thousands of small donations rather than a few large gifts that come from mega-donors who, because they give larger amounts, often expect nonprofits to bend over backwards to conform to them and their oversized egos, condescending attitude, misconceptions about nonprofit work, and lack of self-awareness.
Transparency, respect, and a spirit of true partnership are vital if nonprofits want the money to do good work. Ensure donors like me get all our needs met in a timely manner. Otherwise, we might just pay taxes and let the government handle things. Is that what you nonprofits want?
Just remember, I’ll be watching you.
In the shadows.
Like a philanthropic hawk.
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