Missing in action

Instead of marveling at how much mail we generated with our whitemail experiment, I am struck by how modest the volume is. I’m particularly curious about the four organizations (of 12 original donations) who made only one or two contacts.

Starting up is hard to do

From the small medical research charity I received two responses a month after I mailed the cheque (not bad, given the time of year and the geography.) One envelope contained a receipt; the other a holiday greeting card. Nothing since.

The reasons are easy to imagine.  The organization is a start-up, has no dedicated fundraising staff, is outsourcing receipting, data and donor service to a partner hospital, and is dependent on large grants and institutional funders.

Its staff have staged some public awareness and fund-raising events in its geographic catchment area (not where I live).  But to date, it appears, it isn’t yet strategic or perhaps possible for them to try to renew modest random gifts, or create the beginnings of an annual fund program.

Maybe you can’t buy culture for a $100

One gift went by mail on November 18 to one of Canada’s iconic performing arts organizations. On November 28 I had a reply by mail. Impressive.

Inside was a receipt and a very warm letter – three “thank you” messages in letter itself, and a handwritten signed PS thanking us for our support. Impressive. 

The letter thanked me for my gift to a particular endowment fund. I had made no designation in the gift, so I assume its formal gift policies were followed, which was fine with me. The letter also told me briefly how the fund is used. All very well done, as I would have expected.

Yet I had not a single contact in the following 18 months. There has been no newsletter, no further appeals at the start of the performance season or on the anniversary of the gift – nada. 

I’m tempted to think that the gift wasn’t large enough to warrant follow up. Or maybe it’s just a glitch. Silence is hard to interpret.

Systems don’t always work

The sole communication I received from “Social service-children – national/local chapter” also stood out. On February 28, more than three months after the gift, I received a receipt. One more day and they would have been in violation of Canadian law governing such receipts.

The receipt came with no letter, no newsletter or report or any acknowledgment or personalization. On the receipt, my name was correct but my wife’s name was wrong; not even close.

The national organization would be appalled. But I felt sorry for this chapter and its staff. The appearance of an entirely wrong name in the receipt suggests a problem with their system, data or staffing that will bring them pain.  I wish them well.

Some results are simply inexplicable

The “social-service-broad mandate-national” organization remains a mystery. My on-line gift generated two instant e-mails, one saying a “thanks” and one delivering a receipt.

I received no other emails from this charity.

Seventeen months later (April 15, 2015) I received a nice fat envelope inviting me to be part of the “annual campaign.” The letter was well written, and included a celebrity endorser, but did not reflect that it had been a long time since I had given. The prime request was to become a monthly donor. The appeal was augmented by address and decorative letter stickers imprinted with my name, some blank decorative envelopes and a blank birthday card I could use for someone. 

Maybe I will hear more in the days ahead. But after a 17-month gap, I don’t even have a theory, and can’t discern the strategy at work.

These are the outliers on the low-response side.


Next: Welcoming a new donor