Pop Art Greed in Fundraising

How Greed Can Undermine Your Monthly Giving Program


Greedy? Who me? 

In a recent #monthlygiving post on the Moceanic members-only Facebook group, Julie Cooper posted this: 

“This afternoon I got a call from a well-known mega nonprofit to upgrade my giving to monthly. As typical, they hired a third-party fundraising company to solicit the donation. The very nice person on the other end of the call told me how wonderful I was and about the impact I’m making. All the things you’d expect.

She told me the normal monthly program is $39 per month, but today they had a special offer for only $20/mo.

As she was telling me more, I reached over to my handbag, opened it, and pulled out my credit card.

Then our conversation got awkward.

When she asked me if I would join their (name of monthly program), I said this:

“How about I start at $10 per month and we go from there?”

Silence. Then, “No, I’m sorry. This program is only for gifts $20 or more per month.”

She said she’ll have someone contact me about another “program” for less than $20/mo. (Whaaaaa?)

…And back into my handbag my credit card went.” 

When I saw this, I simply had to respond with this post. The approach this mega nonprofit took is not the one I would recommend! 

You never want to come across as too greedy. For two reasons: 

  1. You want this to be a commitment the donor is comfortable with making. An amount that fits their budget. You want to give your donors a good experience, right? You want them to feel good about the interaction they have with your organization, right? In the above example, they turned Julie off from even considering making another gift– possibly ever! 
  2. You will raise more money if you start low and you base the amount on the donor’s prior gift and not just on what someone higher up tells you to ask for as a minimum. Especially since phone calls are great times to ‘negotiate’ and discuss what works best for the donor (see #1). 

I think I know what happened here. Someone in the organization, or perhaps even someone at the telemarketing agency, said that they had to take minimums of $20 a month. 

And as someone who has managed telemarketing campaigns for monthly giving for many years, both at nonprofits and as a consultant, a big part of the scripting is to always have a few different ask options. And, of course, you’ll always start with what you’d love to see the donor give. 

Those ask amounts should be based upon the donor’s last one-time gift. Often they’re one third or one half for starters, and then you scale back to one fourth and one third if necessary.  

But if the donor says no to the first amount and suggests another lower amount, I will always advise you to go ahead and take it. Getting a recurring gift is a big commitment for the donor!

Let me share a wonderful Dutch expression that applies here: 

He who doesn’t honor the small, isn’t worthy of the big.

A donor’s giving amount should NEVER be about what the organization determines to be the minimum amount. Once you have a recurring donor, they’ll keep giving for many years to come. They’ll make additional gifts. You’ll be able to upgrade them to higher levels. They may even leave you in their will. Their lifetime value soars. 

Now, I understand that your system may require you to have a minimum of $5 or $10 a month, but that would have worked just fine here. 

Refusing $10 a month is not very smart. You just lost out on a donor who was willing to commit $120 a year. And who knows what more she’d be willing to give down the road. 

Having someone else call back about a lower monthly amount is also not very smart. I doubt Julie might ever take another call from this nonprofit again. They lost a good donor because they gave her a bad experience. 

It should also NEVER be about how the organization has organized their giving levels. If a donor wants to give, that’s what matters, and you simply must make it work. 

If I were this mega nonprofit, I’d have a serious conversation with the telemarketing agency and clarify that you’re open to taking smaller amounts. You’ll work out who that information needs to go to in the backend. 

If I were this mega nonprofit, I’d send a special, personalized note to this donor apologizing for this oversight or miscommunication. You have nothing to lose by doing so. 

If I were this mega nonprofit and this telemarketing agency, this call example should be part of the training process. As the fundraiser, you must always listen to some calls, especially early on in a campaign. It will allow you to adjust your scripting and process appropriately. 

It’s hard enough to get someone on the phone these days, so you’d certainly want those calls to leave the donor feeling great about the commitment she’s just made. 

That mega nonprofit may think that the results of the campaign are fantastic. Maybe they are getting a ton of $20+ a month gifts. That’s wonderful. 

But how many donors are they losing in the process because they didn’t honor their smaller gift of $10 a month, $120 a year, which is still absolutely nothing to sneeze at? 

If I knew that mega nonprofit, I’d beg them to evaluate their process, their call scripting, ask amounts and approach. 

Unfortunately, it’s this ‘greediness’ that gives telemarketing agencies and fundraisers a bad rap. 

Especially where you’re reaching out to your existing donors, you may wish to tread a bit more lightly and reconsider: He who doesn’t honor the small, isn’t worthy of the big.

Or, to put it another way: Don’t be greedy!

Erica Waasdorp is president of A Direct Solution and teacher of the popular Moceanic workshop, Monthly Giving: The Recurring Revolution.

You can take Erica’s powerful workshop by joining The Fundraisingology Lab by Moceanic. You’ll get the tools, the information, and the supporting community that will take you to new places in your fundraising career. Join the waiting list now and you’ll be the first to hear when the doors open again!

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5 Comments. Leave new

  • Michelle Tribe
    November 4, 2021 1:40 am

    Amen to “he who doesn’t honor the small, isn’t worthy of the big!” I think as fundraisers, gratefully accepting a “small” donation shows respect to our donors, and honours their dignity. I have one monthly donor who gives $1 a month. My organization helped this gentleman years ago, and he wanted to show his gratitude by giving back. Only, he’s on a very restricted income as he lives on social assistance for disable people. I call him annually to thank him for his gift: he is very proud of his donation and he loves knowing he is making a difference.

  • Erica, I love your Dutch expression “He who doesn’t honor the small, isn’t worthy of the big.” I’m also pretty sure none of us would turn down a $120 annual donation. But it sounds to me like the telemarketing company that was hired by the mega charity was trying to pitch a $20 per month package and did not adequately train their staff to handle Julie’s alternate $10 per month offer. This is very important and is something we need to ensure when selecting a telemarketing agency to represent us. How do their train their team, how are objections managed, and run through all of these types of scenarios – vs I’ll have the person who manages the smaller package call you approach. Epic fail!

    By the way if you haven’t ordered and read Erica Waasdorp’s latest book: Monthly Giving Made Easy – I highly recommend it. It and Harvey McKinnon’s: How to Create Lifelong Donors Through Monthly Giving should both be on your must read list. I consider them the two most incredible Monthly Giving Guru’s of all time! I take every opportunity to soak up their wisdom.

  • Eugene M Nakdimen
    November 5, 2021 9:22 am

    When I worked for a religious organization they quoted the founder regarding donations and how I should approach donors. “Anything you give is acceptable and appreciated.”
    Never forgot that and say it ALL the time.

  • Dale Anania
    July 22, 2022 7:35 am

    In Dec I did a test and called 5 orgs where I was a monthly donor and said I’d had a change in circumstances and at least for now, needed to lower my gift amount.
    3 said no problem and thanked me for sticking with them during my hard times.
    1 org never responded to my 4 emails and 4 phone messages. I finally canceled and won’t be giving to them again.
    At the 5th was a large international org that I’d been giving $15/m to for @ 4 years. I got a live person, but she didn’t thank me for my giving, said $15 was now their min but I could make one-time gifts if I wanted. She canceled my gift! Needless to say, the message I heard is that I do not help at all, I’m worthless. Even as a professional fundraiser, I can’t escape my anger and removed them from my will.

  • Erica Waasdorp
    July 22, 2022 8:54 am

    yes, so sad isn’t it? They must not be reading any of these tips and blogs… I think more training for people answering phones is needed. crazy.. erica


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