Successful Fundraising — Not for the Thin-Skinned
“You can’t please everyone so you gotta please yourself.” —Ricky Nelson
I was reminded of this truism recently when the board president of a client organization called to vent about their low Charity Navigator ranking.
Apparently she had been contacted by a potential donor who said that he had planned on making a contribution, but, upon checking out the organization’s Charity Navigator paltry three-star ranking, changed his mind.
The fact that this particular organization receives over $2 million worth of in-kind contributions a year (a tremendous showing of community support) evidently doesn’t factor into the financial picture used to determine these evaluations. Without explanation, it garners a low rating for this charity.
How Would You Handle a Situation Such as This?
My immediate thought was to address the situation, quickly and transparently, by way of the organization’s newsletter and website. Point out the flaw in evaluation methods and point out that another recent independent evaluation showed that every $1 donated results in $6 of goods and services!
Sounds convincing, right?
But stop and think about it.
Whenever a person, organization or company does anything worthwhile, there will be critics and opposition. In such cases, it is important to develop a thick skin and remember to stay the course. (Side note: Often the two go hand in hand so well that you can actually plot your success by the amount of criticism you receive.)
There are a few key points to keep in mind:
Beware of Internalizing Negative Feedback From People That Are not Giving You Money
Opinions are like elbows, everyone has one … er, at least one … so only listen to your target audience — the people that give you money. And even then, you want some sort of critical mass before you act on it. If your organization has 100 members, you probably want to hear consistent feedback from 10-20 percent of them before you take action. Do you really think Nissan goes back to the drawing board because someone complains about not enough leg room, or a button being too far away? One person, one vote!
Beware the Magnifier/Multiplier Effect of Bad Feedback
When someone is upset or angry and you’re on the receiving end, there is a tendency to magnify the problem because you perceive the situation to be worse than it really is. I recall an annual appeal — my first one with a rented list — during which the office staff told me everyone was calling to express how upset they were to receive duplicate mailings. I asked the staff, “How many people exactly?” The response was five: Five complaints out of nearly 70,000 letters mailed (and the campaign generated a 27 percent increase in annual funds that year). Nevertheless, the few complaints proved to be enough to justify wasting an enormous amount of staff time and energy.
Beware the 'Miserables'
I could go on ad nauseam about a portion of the population that is just miserable and looking to be offended at any opportunity. Even if you do everything right, there will always be someone complaining about something (they don’t like the color, they thought you emailed them too early/too late, you used their maiden name, etc.) so there are some things (actually quite a few) that you’ll just have to learn to roll with.
By the way, this example organization has one of the most impressive databases I have ever seen with a loyal donor base. They also have the largest number of bequest gifts I’ve seen in a small organization.
And not one of their donors has remarked on the Charity Navigator ranking.
Pamela Grow is the publisher of The Grow Report, the author of Simple Development Systems and the founder of Simple Development Systems: The Membership Program and Basics & More fundraising fundamentals e-courses. She has been helping small nonprofits raise dramatically more money for over 15 years, and was named one of the 50 Most Influential Fundraisers by Civil Society magazine, and one of the 40 Most Effective Fundraising Consultants by The Michael Chatman Giving Show.