February 24, 2013 | 11:16AM
The charities most successful at fundraising are the ones that maximize their connection to their donors at the very least possible effort and cost. The private connection, in which the organization really focuses in on the donor, and gets to know them and what's important to them, is definitely saved for that heavy hitters, the main donors, the only real ones the organization can afford to spend time and energy on. As a result, fundraising often begins to drive programming decisions; i.e., a program may be initiated if it's felt that it'll be appealing to donors, as opposed to the most necessary program required.
Is any one of this ideal? Absolutely not. At its core, fundraising such as this builds false connections using its donors, increases cynicism regarding charitable work and turns charities into businesses.
I've always felt the relationship between a fundraiser along with a donor ought to be similar to that of the connection between an old-fashioned small grocery store and a regular customer. The client comes in at her usual time each week, the grocery store owner comes out to greet her by name (not while he looked up inside a database, but while he knows his customers), chats together with her about what is happening in their lives and also the neighbourhood, already has her staple items ready to go, mentions the sale items that he knows she will like, tosses inside a treat for the children, and lets her know that he has some special items arriving next week and he will put some aside for her. He's her groceries delivered within the hour, by a local kid that puts her purchases away for her. The customer leaves the shop feeling part of her neighbourhood, that they continues to be taken care of, that they is special and important, but additionally it would be unthinkable on her to visit elsewhere - her heart can there be, for the reason that store, with this grocery store owner.
Can a sizable charitable organization pull this off? Of course not. Large charities would be the Walmart of fundraising. They cannot make authentic connections with everyone in their 100,000 record database. While their organizations might have amazing programs which make a wonderful difference in our worlds, lives and environment, they just cannot function without the big fundraising machine in it, and real reference to donors is not possible; it must be automated and made efficient towards the fullest extent to usher in as much as possible possible. All this is, obviously, a necessary evil also it simply wouldn't be easy to obtain the funds required to perform important work that large charities do without this type of fundraising.
But smaller organizations can absolutely be that old-fashioned small supermarket! Because their donor is made of smaller and their organizational financial needs are less, they can place the heart into fundraising. Several committed volunteers can reach out to the donors, write actual letters using (gasp!) an actual pen and address the envelope in actual handwriting. (When's the last time you threw out an envelope that had your handwritten name and address onto it without having to open it?)
They can use real stamps! The Executive Director can call donors up and let them know what's happening. The ED can write personal notes on the bottom of their fundraising letters to any or all the donors, not only the top 1%. Small charity can treat their donors like people and obtain to understand them as individuals, learning why this organization means so much to them and how they can best contribute. Donors become real supporters with commitments past the financial contribution, instead of walking wallets. It doesn't mean that it isn't necessary to possess a strong database and appropriate technology, follow up and consistency, of course. It simply means that smaller charities can go where the larger charities can't - and therein lies the chance!