Every six weeks or so I get a nasty piece of mail, my visa bill. I don’t like it. Who does? But if the charges on the bill are mine, then they are mine. If my neighbour asked me to pay his visa bill, I’d shake my head in disbelief. I didn’t ring up his charges.
Yet, ‘pay our visa bill’ is a common undertone in direct-mail, fundraising appeals. I received such an appeal recently. A foundation had made a commitment to fund X, Y and Z and would I kindly make a gift toward the project. They have committed. I am asked to pick up the bill. The idea of positioning the donor as a bank bothers me, both as a donor and as a communicator.
As a donor, the message makes me feel as if the organization is ahead of me, decisions have been made, construction details are being worked out, etc.. It sets up an unfortunate them-and-me situation.
As a communicator, I would steer clear of this message altogether. It may be true that your organization has agreed to fund a project. It may also be true that you have appointed a four-member committee to oversee the fundraising and that’s not in your letter. Choose your content carefully. Use the precious few words and characters that you have to work with to create a ‘we’re in this thing together’ message for your appeal.
What worries me most, when I read an appeal and feel as if the sending organization thinks of me as a bank, is that it really does think of me as a bank.
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