I wanted to give a fairly large gift to a charity I admire. And I wanted to put it on my American Express card. You see, I have an annual budget that I like to donate, and I want it to all be on my AMEX card which makes my tax return much easier.
So I asked the charity if I could donate by AMEX …
And they said no.
I asked why, and they had two reasons they didn’t accept AMEX:
- AMEX usually charges more than other cards for the merchant fee. This can reduce the value of the donation by 1% to 3%.
- AMEX card holders have other cards too. They can use those.
I asked around and found out many charities don’t accept AMEX, and for the same reasons.
Actually, there’s also a third reason, and I think it might be the real reason: In order to accept AMEX, someone has to get around to the paperwork, and there are other priorities. Charities are often understaffed, and this just seems a lot of effort for small return.
But let’s take a deeper look at the question, especially from the donors’ point of view:
- AMEX donors give up to 50% more than non-AMEX donors. This reason alone should get every charity in the world to start taking American Express!
- Even those AMEX donors who give the same amounts as non-AMEX donors are identifying themselves as higher value prospects.
- AMEX charge cards usually have no credit limits, reducing bounces.
- AMEX regular givers give slightly higher monthly donations, and they have much, much higher retention rates.
- Wealthier people — that is, your best high-donor prospects – tend to use AMEX cards.
- AMEX holders pay for their cards, so they want to use them.
- AMEX donors like to keep donations on one card. It’s easier for their tax records.
- AMEX donors may say that it is fine when you ask for Visa instead, but you are creating a barrier — they wouldn’t have offered AMEX first if they wanted the donation on a different card.
- Making the case for why you accept AMEX is a useful opener for donor-focused training, it’s a great example of putting donors ahead of administrative needs.
Am I persuading you? Diners should be accepted too — for the same reasons.
But my real point here is not actually that you should take AMEX — I promise I’m not getting paid by them! The point is that a tiny decision — like accepting AMEX or not — tells a lot about how donor-centred an organisation is.
Put donors first.
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