Monday, June 30, 2008

Fundraising 101

I'm not going to pretend I am an expert in fundraising, although I have done some of it professionally for a political campaign and have also done some fundraising using my own business, but I do know that there are certain things you never do when trying to raise funds for your charity or political candidate. Probably the most important thing you should never do when asking someone to part with their money is to get into a pissing contest with them. For certain, you should never get into a pissing contest with me.

Here is an almost verbatim transcript of a fundraising call I received this evening:

Me: Hello?
Caller (with "private" showing up on the caller ID): Hello, Mrs. Gardner?
Me: Um, no. May I take a message.
Caller: Yes, please tell Mrs. Gardner that Robert Smith called.
Me: Okay, Mr. Smith, can I tell her what company you're with?
RS: Insight, we're a telecommunications company.
Me (thinking this call is about to end): Thank you Mr. Smith. We're on the Do Not Call Registry. Are you aware of that?
RS: I'm not trying to sell you anything. I'm calling to raise money for the Sick Kids Leukemia Fund.
Me (again, thinking this call is about to end): While I'm sure that's a worthy cause Mr. Smith, we only give money to St. Jude's Children's Research Center.
RS: Well, that's selfish! You're only giving to 1 hospital. Do you know how many kids have Leukemia? By giving to us, you're helping ALL the children. Not just the lucky ones who go to St. Jude.
Me: Mr. Smith, I appreciate your concern for the kids, but St. Jude is my choice because my cousin is the child in the silhouette logo for St. Jude's. So that's where my money goes. Thank you for calling.
RS: I don't think so. MY nephew was the ORIGINAL poster child for St. Jude's in the 70s and 80s. Where is your cousin now?
Me: Dead. And I don't think that trying to get into a pissing match with me is any way to get me to donate to your cause.
RS: I'm not trying to get into a pissing match with you. But your cousin is NOT that child in the St. Jude's logo.
Me: Mr. Smith, I was trying to be nice to you. But I never give money to anyone who just calls me out of the blue and asks for it. For all I know, you're a fraud. Take me off your GD calling list.

So what did Mr. Smith do wrong?
  1. He lied to me by saying he was with a "telecommunications" company rather than telling me upfront he was
  2. He insulted me by calling me "selfish" for giving money to one of the most respected children's research hospitals in the world, rather than to his unknown charity.
  3. Finally, he got into a pissing contest with me over who had the most sympathetic personal relationship to St. Jude's.


  1. Ah! The old telecommunications company! AKA professional fundraising company.

    I hate those people. I don't actively hate many people, but I will make an exception in this case. They are pushy. They are dishonest. They are usually paid on a commission basis, which is actually considered unethical in this field. If you ask them to send you written materials, they usually refuse unless you give them a donation. And if you are foolish enough to give to one of them, only about 15% of your donation actually goes to the charity.

    I get lots of calls from family about these outfits (they especially get calls from Sherrifs' Associations and the ilk), and I always tell them it is a waste of their money.

    My personal giving policy is as follows: Since I work in the non-profit industry, I always give the greatest portion of my fundraising dollar/time to the place I work at (my current employer gets $300 cash and about $13000 in free labor). I give a token donation to my other alma mater, who doesn't need the money but the number of donations helps. The rest of my donations go strictly local, with 25 miles of where I live, except for that I do participate in my family's silent auction at our reunions; said donations given to the American Cancer Society in memory/honor of all the members of the family who have battled and/or died from the disease.

    I can't believe he actually got in a pissing match with you. Either he is completely clueless (which is possible) or was having the worst day ever......

  2. GG,

    Yes, I agree with you completely.

    I give to the Mary Kay Ash Charitable Foundation because 97% of the money goes to fund research into cancers that affect women and work to end domestic violence. Most of the admin costs are absorbed by Mary Kay Inc. And since that's where I work, that makes sense to me.

    I give to LFC because I'm a fan of the education I received there and I upped the amount I now give because I'm on the Alumni Board.

    I support St. Jude Children's Research Hospital because of all that they mean to our family.

    Anything else that I do is usually the gift of my time or food to the local food pantry, but it's local.

    I NEVER give to those outfits that call me. And the Sheriffs' Associations, etc. are the WORST.


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