The experience of giving to charity should be uplifting. Every donor should be made to feel special. Unfortunately, that’s often not what happens…
When I started as the Campaign Manager at Amplify Fundraising, I was really keen to learn more about Australian charities and the amazing work they do. Shortly after starting, Paul and I spoke about doing some charity research – a mystery shopping activity – where we would donate $25 to 40 charities and learn how they treat me as a new donor. These charities were the top 40 by fundraising revenue (based on a 2017 ACNC report).
The primary purpose was to record my journey; what would I experience as a new donor? What mail, emails and phone calls would I receive? What tactics and marketing techniques would be used and what potential improvements would we identify across the donor journey?
My first week of giving was a real eye-opener, and it prompted me to write about my experience.
The day I started making donations was an emotional one. I had just dropped my little ones at day-care and school and the tears were streaming. When I arrived home with their tear stained faces imprinted in my memory, I remember feeling, ‘at least I now get to do something incredibly rewarding – donate to people in need!’
I was expecting the fundraisers on the other end of the phone to lift my spirits with their gratitude. Instead what I heard in my first call was a voicemail! I tried this particular charity an hour later. Voicemail again. On my third attempt the person had to put me on hold to get a paper donation form. Not a great start to what I thought was going to be a gratifying experience.
It was difficult to donate to 25% of charities – I either went to voicemail, the line disconnected, or the donation phone number was incorrect on the website.
The worst call I experienced, however, wasn’t the disconnected tone or the voicemail. It wasn’t even the charity that kept me on hold for four minutes, it was the lady who couldn’t get me off the phone fast enough. She read her script. She processed my gift. She didn’t even ask for my address. Her manner was impatient, dismissive and cold, and it was as though whatever she was doing at that point in time, was more important than the cause she was receiving donations for. My $25 didn’t seem important. I couldn’t help but feel incredibly sorry for all of the disadvantaged people that were relying on that money.
My positive, enthusiastic bubble for donating had popped and I started to question whether my expectation for a little gratitude was too high. I wouldn’t want to donate to that particular charity again and I felt discouraged to make further phone calls to any organisation.
I picked myself up from the disappointment and continued calling. Fortunately, a couple of telephone calls later I spoke to a lady who was appreciative, warm and genuine. She was enthusiastic about the cause she was helping to raise money for, and she made me feel amazing for making a donation.
After all, isn’t this why we choose be donors in the first place? We want to feel that we are helping others and making a difference. I wanted to feel that my hard-earned money was going to a charity that was genuinely passionate about its mission and they appreciated every dollar donated.
I was frustrated by the number of recipients who sounded like they were reading from a script – it felt so impersonal and ingenuous. A warm greeting by someone who understands their cause and is extremely passionate about the charity they work for, would make a huge first impression on me. It’s not just about saying the words ‘thank you’, it’s about the fundraiser truly believing that my gift is important. If they felt this way with every gift they received, donors would immediately sense this through their tone – their true appreciation would be brought to life.
Donating is such an incredible act of generosity. All donors are amazing and should leave the phone call feeling that way – after all, they are putting others first and trying to make the world a better place.