The Donor/Charity Contract
The (Current but Outdated) Donor Contract
When you give us a gift, we own your name. We have the right to communicate with you as often as we want; contact you by any medium we choose (we’re exempt from national do-not-call legislation); keep you on our mailing list in perpetuity (if you ask to be removed from our list, it will take us up to three months to do so); and rent your name to other organizations at our discretion and for our benefit.
There’s a contract between nonprofits and their donors. And frankly, it’s not all that attractive to donors. If donors knew what they were signing up for, how many of them would still give?
The system works, thanks to good-hearted, involved people. But the upcoming generation is going to demand a new contract that serves its needs better. With that in mind, I’d like to propose some elements for a new donor contract — one that actually might attract donors, not scare them off.
Each of the following “rights” involves handing over power to donors. But their gain is not your loss. When you give something up, you almost always get more back. This is just an opportunity to do fundraising the way it should have been done all along.
1 - Donors have a right to control frequency. One donor’s “too much” is another’s “just right.” The best way to get the frequency right is to let donors set it. Ask them what they want. Those who take action will give more in the following 12 months. I know because I’ve tested it! Even those who take no action end up giving more. Donors will reward you for giving them choices.
2 - Donors have a right not to have their names shared with other organizations. This is a sore spot for some donors — the fact that supporting one cause opens them to a flood of mail from others. (Though for others, it’s no problem at all. They love good causes, and the more, the merrier!) So, ask. Offer the choice to opt out. Or consider a no-rental/no-exchange policy. The organizations I know that do this seem to have better donor-retention rates.