Are You Nickel-and-Diming Your Donors?

in Cultivation & Stewardship,Fundraising,Marketing for Nonprofits

These days I avoid flying commercial like the plague.  It’s a miserable chore. It is one inconvenience and imposition piled upon another.  Complying with securing regulations means partially undressing in public.  Customer service is as obsolete as the Knights of the Round Table.  And they nickel-and-dime you to death. 

Flying itself is great!  My husband and I are both pilots.  Flying commercial, however, is no fun.

The costs of flying commercial

My husband has a trip coming up where he has no choice but to use the airlines.  Making his reservations and paying for the tickets triggered this post.

Want to sit next to your husband? No problem. That's an extra $40 EACH, please.

Specifically . . . Today we encountered a new “add-on” charge from a commercial airline: Pay extra to reserve a specific seat number on the flight.

Paying for the ticket just reserves you a seat.  If you want to choose where you sit it costs anywhere from an extra $10 to $40! 

Let’s look back in time . . .

They stopped serving meals as part of the ticket price.  They started selling lunches – many of which were a snack bar and piece of fruit for $5-$10.  They stopped giving a bag of peanuts with the beverage (okay; once in awhile you find and airline that still gives you pretzels). 

Then they started charging you to have checked luggage (with one notable exception – Southwest).  And some airlines cancel flights and “claim” maintenance problems if there aren’t as many passengers as they want (This has happened to my parents three times.)  That’s a cost to passengers.

And now they charge you to select a seat in advance of the mass boarding call.  Mass boarding – a serene experience which causes images of a homestead land rush stampede to flash across my mind.

Everyone I’ve talked to about flying commercial seems equally frustrated, annoyed, disgusted … well, you get the idea.  Many speculate about when and how much the airlines will charge to use the bathroom on board the aircraft. 

So how does this relate to donors?

If you ask for money every single time you send a letter or email … you just might be nickel-and-diming your donors. 

A related tactic that really annoys me is a phone call from a charity that begins with, “I’m just calling to say thank you.”  Or, “I’m not asking for money today.”  And then they proceed to ask for my support once again.  Or they ask for a pledge which to me is the same as asking for money. 

Last fall I actually received a pure cultivation letter – zero ask and no return envelope – in the mail.  It was exciting!  I felt so special. 

That’s not all.  The charity made a big impression because it’s such a rare experience – so few charities do this.  That charity received a larger gift from me soon after.  Pretty smart timing on their part too.

Cultivation is more than a thank you letter sent soon after receiving a gift.  It’s a strategy deeply integrated into your year-long fundraising and marketing schedule. 

Don’t be like the airlines.  Don’t nickel-and-dime your donors to attrition.  Instead, treat your donors with dignity.  Appreciate them.  Be a friend.

What petty charges have the airlines added on to your ticket?  Did I miss anything?

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Welcome. Thank you. So glad you’ve joined us — Karen Zapp - Nonprofit Copywriter
November 22, 2011 at 11:52 am

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