Treat Me Like you Care about Me, and I'll Donate more Money.

When a charity or relief agency asks for money and doesn’t give anything back, it really frustrates me. A year or so I gave a nice donation to AmeriCares, a disaster relief agency that responds to emergency medical and humanitarian needs all around the world. About 3 months later I received a standard “thank you” letter, with another donation envelope tucked inside. That really got me steamed… they want something from me but haven’t given me anything in return. At that time, I wrote the CEO and indicated that the constant appeal was very cheeky… and they had now lost me as a contributor.

Contrast that to a small charity in my local community that focuses on developmentally disabled adult children. It’s called “The Cottage”. I have given them money too, and they just sent me a Happy Valentine’s Day card with pictures of the children they help. No, they didn’t ask for anything. The mere act of the card touched me deeply, and made me feel very good about our “relationship” and I will continue to contribute.

What’s at stake here is understanding the ‘give and take’ of building a brand relationship. Some charities see the contribution game as push, push, push. But they don’t seem to grasp that extraordinary long-term value comes from building an enduring relationship. That means that they have a responsibility to give their donors something back. No, it is not money. Just tell us something about the good we are doing. Show us how our contribution helped. Allow us to feel a part of the cause.

But the other important element of the relationship is to address this information to me personally. Yes, I do read the glossy annual reports and brochures. They are often elegant, but by design generic. What contributors want to know, on a very individual level, is that they matter. It is about deeply touching us in a way that makes us feel part of the mission. It is far too presumptuous to assume that I will feel connected with general communications. Tell me something about the donation I have just made.

It is not all that difficult to acknowledge and connect contributors to a not-for-profit brand… it just needs to be thought through and become an integral part of the strategy of the relationship. We don’t necessarily need details specific to our individual investment, but we do need to understand on a most tangible level what our $25, $100 or $1,000 is doing. Did it buy a case of antibiotics, three cows or 20 tents and blankets? Show us the people who received the benefit of our donation. In other words, connect us to the mission.

So my advice to not-for-profits that are struggling or want to secure relationships into the future… start thinking about giving back something to bond you contributors on an individual level. Don’t always ask for money. You will be amazed at the short and long term benefits. And we will be much more willing donors.