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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

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What kind of fundraiser are you?
Tom Ahern

November, 2014

Are you a "professional"? Or could software replace you a few years from now? The nonprofit world of the near future wants to know. Twitter News at 11. Done by 11:003.


But I couldn't really think of a good article to go with that set-up. So instead...

I've written about The Evil Robot Haunting Your Donor Communications and Making Good Things Turn Out Bad.

Or (my alternative title)....

How, a fast-growing international charity with a great reputation, lost my eager monthly gift

Here's How

It began when I fell in love with a child. And the next child, too. And the next. Great photos of real kids.

And I'd just come back from Seattle where Peter Drury talked about the incredible impact was having in countries with unsafe drinking water all over the world ... how the world's top foundations buzzed around, wanting to partner ...

So, anyway, I wanted to see what the donor experience would be like. I knew it would be exceptional.

I wanted to get the thanks. I wanted their donor newsletter. I wanted to get all their donor communications stuff, digital and print.

My giving experience got off to a promising start: the website is drop-dead gorgeous. I'm talking high style. The good stuff. National Geographic quality.

The landing page for giving was itself enchanting. It immediately gave me visual rewards for my labors.

As I filled out the giving form, my name and other information came up displayed in a striking all-caps font that looked elegant and strong.

I wanted to especially explore the experience for monthly donors, so I chose to make a monthly gift.

I've found that monthly giving is a better emotional experience for me as a donor. I get to have the good feeling of giving 12 times a year instead of just once, and I enjoy that.

It's better living through chemistry. You see, making a gift triggers a release of dopamine in our brains. Dopamine is the "reward drug." It makes us feel good. Needless to say, twelve shots of dopamine a year are better than just one. Hence, monthly giving's more rewarding psychologically to me as a donor.

And I had a specific monthly amount in mind: $10.66, honoring the year the Normans invaded and won the crown of England (danger: history nerd).

The numbers mean something to me. And every month I'd be reminded of my special attachment to this particular wonderful charitable enterprise I was a tiny part of.

Enter the Evil Robot

was the word that stood out most in my mind.

I wasn't allowed to submit my gift. I received the above message instead.

I dunno. Maybe you can't enter four-digit gifts or something. Maybe the robot's not a history buff.

But the mood was broken.

The enthusiasm was gone.

The Evil Robot that lurks in loads of online transaction processes had shown its ugly metal face. 

For those of you who attended the Class of 2014 Seattle Storytelling Conference, recall now the AIDA sales formula you were taught.

The AID parts (attention, interest, desire) worked great for But the final A -- the call to action -- did not.

It turned suddenly cold and rejecting.

"The payment amount is invalid." The Evil Robot speaks. In URGENT RED on a page of black type.

The Evil Robot has no personality.

The Evil Robot, the mechanical aspects of making a gift, should never be seen nor heard by the flesh-and-blood customer, your beloved donor.

No one loves the Evil Robot. Donor Love and Evil Robot cannot co-exist. They are enemies and mutually exclusive.

I dunno. I might go back to If I have the energy. Thanks to the Evil Robot, though, I assume I will not be missed. Hey, come on. It's not like my measly $10.66 a month year after year for who knows how long would be doing all that much, right?

Look: like many first gifts, mine was an impulse purchase.

And will I have that impulse again?

Fundraisers: be especially alert. Examine your own cupboard for mice.

I've been visiting lots of charity websites lately, to study two things: (1) the presence of the "donor as hero" on the home page; and (2) the warmth of the landing page where gifts are made.

I'm seeing plenty of Evil Robots. One common failing: ice cold landing pages. Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. Hugs aren't cold.
Visit Tom Ahern at


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