New Orleans These are tough times for nonprofits, and, frankly, for just a ton of other folks as well. The appeals are daunting. So many, in fact, that there’s something between a dread and imposter’s syndrome that begins to intrude. Especially with things like Giving Tuesday, which is so ubiquitous that I figure it must be corporate. Is this now the United Way in disguise? But I digress. It seems like we’re still processing all the requests, and what to do or not to do about so many of them from groups and people, we don’t know or remember, and, then boom, we’re getting “thank you” notices from the groups, while we’re still scratching our heads and sitting on our duffs. What’s up?
Old schoolers, like me, who still write checks, largely so we can keep some kind of real record and, I’ll tell the truth, because some of us, like me, don’t really trust all of the bank and credit card systems that want to link to our feeble little accounts. I’m not going to pretend that I balance my check book, because I haven’t done so in more than 40 years, but neither am I going to pretend that I can easily access my monthly bank statements online. A couple of years ago, I had to stand in line at the counter to get three different bank tellers to sort out how they could print out all my statements for the year, since they weren’t available online. If that was supposed to inspire some kind of confidence, it didn’t.
Back to the point, we obviously are getting thanked for nothing, not just because the groups assumed the contributions were instantaneous over the web, but also because the thanks were cheap. Why should they take a chance on not thanking someone who donated, when they can just thank the whole list, as easily as they pitched the whole list in the first place? I get it, but that doesn’t bring a warm glow from me either.
Hey, we are a nonprofit. A bunch of them! We want people to support us enthusiastically, and I don’t mean maybe, but is this really the best way? Is there one better? In fact, does this even really work? A lot of it seems like “throwing it up against the wall.” I really liked one appeal. It was from some left-leaner who detailed her background and what she was trying to do in Los Angeles. It wasn’t an organization or at least didn’t seem like much more than a vehicle for her activism, but, nonetheless, it wasn’t canned. It was very personal. I read the whole thing both the first and second time that I got it. Did it work? I hope so for her sake, but not with me. I didn’t know her. I’m not sure how see picked me out of the lot, but that doesn’t mean there’s not already a long line ahead of her.
In Montreal last week, I listened to a great workshop on door-to-door canvassing in middle- and upper-class neighborhoods by two of the ACORN Canada staff. Friday afternoons, this is still the standard operating procedure in ACORN offices. They do e-appeals. They do phone appeals. No stone is left unturned. At the same time, when they list their goals for the coming year, they are riding on the high side when they talk about donors from those appeals, but they are down to the dollar when they list their canvass goals for 2024 by office. It’s something we still understand fully, rather than a shot in the dark with a hope and a prayer.
Meanwhile, it’s the season from asking and maybe for giving, so thanks in advance!