I attended the wedding of two close friends one rainy Sunday morning in May in Northern California. For a wedding gift, as requested by the couple, I made a donation to their favorite charity — Loaves & Fishes. I felt good about this gift. I knew it would not be yet another kitchen gadget, set of towels or crystal stemware that would forever blend into the backdrop of domestic obscurity. It was simple. I was making a donation to help feed the poor, who clearly needed the money more than my upwardly mobile friends.
I have been receiving direct mail solicitations from Loaves & Fishes ever since. As many as six times a year. Did I mention that I made my gift nearly TWENTY YEARS AGO?!
I cannot help but think that this organization has already spent my ENTIRE GIFT, not on feeding the poor, but on paper, postage and people to send me over a hundred additional solicitations over the last two decades.
Don’t get me wrong — I understand all about reactivating lapsed donors and the fact that prior donors are more likely than average to contribute again. But what L&F hasn’t figured out is that I made this donation not because I had any personal affinity with their cause (which would be a pretty good predictor of future gifts), but because I went to the wedding of someone who did.
L&F (and many not-for-profits) can do a better job of capturing such affinities and factoring them into future marketing investment decisions. They should also make it easy to opt out of future solicitations. For now, with each additional solicitation they send me, the chance I’ll donate again declines even further, because my impression is they are not so much feeding the poor as feeding my mailbox, and millions of others as well.