There is fierce competition out there for charitable donations and, even though it is not always tasteful to speak of competition in the nonprofit sector, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

The year end dash for the ever important annual donation is in full force and some organizations are sticking with the tried-and-true and others are working to change the paradigm of how they ask for financial support from both their ardent supporters and those they hope will join their cause.

As I mentioned in a previous blogs, there is a whole canon of wisdom regarding how to craft good year-end appeals, how to get a potential donor’s attention through social media, and so forth and so forth. Tactics abound, but sometimes our collective common sense is blinded by the tried and true.

For example: I have received four physical calendars and one virtual calendar as an incentive to continue or increase my support. Lapel pins, the ubiquitous personalized return address labels. A penny.

Virtually my gift will be matched, doubled, tripled. I will receive a free subscription, a DVD, a free trial! Nobody has thrown in a Shamwow yet, but I would not be surprised if it was offered.

If George Carlin was still with us, he could probably do a great bit about how charitable annual appeal incentives may have slipped into the absurd.

4 wall calendars, 3 branded pens, 2 lapel pins and a partridge in a pear tree!

4 wall calendars, 3 branded pens, 2 lapel pins and a partridge in a pear tree!

Do we need all this stuff to prompt us to be philanthropic? And if so, do I really need four wall calendars? Do any of us need more wall calendars?

Something is broken here.

I think we as fundraisers have lost our way in some sense. People become numbers and statistics on a spreadsheet or a database. Sometimes even major donors can get the “this is what donors want” treatment (who doesn’t want a wall calendar?).

I believe that people donate because they care about the cause. Yes, incentives are good, but should not replace the emotion, the humanity, the story that compels a person to be philanthropic.

This is a great example of what I would suspect that donors really want. A request to be involved with the charity, the donor’s opinion and a story that provides a true sense about what the organization is doing.  

My wife and I regularly support many causes that are dear to our hearts, but I am saving $100 for the group that shares their best story with me to be given before Dec 31st !!!

Although a Shamwow does look pretty cool.