There seems to be a fear in the traditional non-profit world in telling donors too much, or in revealing too much about your organization. I think there was a time when donors asked fewer questions and demanded less accountability. Today more than ever before donors want to know that their money is going to make a difference and is being used to the very best of its ability. What does that look like?
Many charities today ask you for a gift to do something and then put that money towards general greatest needs. A reader had a great comment in responds to my grassroots fundraising post. Many solicitation letters are written where donors are asked to give to this specific program but the money goes to the greatest needs of the organization. This is not always the case there are organizations where if you “buy a goat” or “sponsor a child” that money goes to that specific kid or for that specific animal you purchased. And I think that is incredible. But it doesn’t always work that way.
We in the non-profit world need to be very careful about what we say. If we are asking for money for X and give it to Y then that is a problem. You might say, “that is how it works” or “if I ask for general support my case is not compelling enough.” A great solution proposed by this reader is to explain what the costs involved in doing your organization’s mission are. This is often called creating equivalences. For example it might cost a homeless shelter $50 to feed 30 people or cost a relief agency $10,000 to put a fresh water well in Africa. You can ask for a gift of $30 dollars to help your homeless shelter then go onto describe the kinds of things that $30 dollars could do. Things like feeding people or providing them a bed for the night. But do not say the money will go directly to feeding people unless that is the plan for the money.
Here are some other articles on this topic:
Wall Street Journal- How Can Charities Make Themselves More Open
Donor Power Blog- More Donors are Growing Hard Noses
Katya’s Non-Profit Marketing Blog- Open Up or Else