SOFII, a terrific resource for fundraisers, recently published an analysis of the following letter sent to Oxfam Ireland by one of its donors. The analysis was written by Damian O’Broin, director of Ask Direct, a fundraising and direct marketing agency in Dublin.
Please find enclosed a cheque… to pay for raffle tickets… Oxfam is my primary charity. Castlebar, the place where I work, has an Oxfam shop and I can go in and make an extra donation for a specific purpose either because disaster has struck somewhere or for a special occasion in my own life… I would like to let you know that I give money to Oxfam in good faith. There are many people in the world who live in dire circumstances and I trust Oxfam and its employees/volunteers to do the best for them that they are able to do within the given circumstances. I like it that Oxfam is a large organisation so that they have expertise in various fields and a large body of personnel to draw upon.
You are unable as an individual to deliver aid to whoever needs it. That would be impossible and very wasteful. The money you received from me is real money – with that I mean, if I didn’t give the money to you, I wouldn’t have difficulty finding another use for it. What I am really trying to say is this: I trust you to spend money wisely and carefully and give aid appropriately with consideration to people’s background. I don’t expect Oxfam employees to work for nothing, they need to be properly paid.
I am proud to support Oxfam and I know that puts a responsibility on all Oxfam personnel.
Twice this donor refers explicitly to the trust he or she places in Oxfam … and indeed the entire letter underscores the trusting relationship that the donor enjoys with the charity.
He goes on to write, "The first thing to say is that this is a genuinely committed donor we’re hearing from. While she or he is clearly responsive to emergencies, there is also the intriguing line ‘I can go in and make an extra donation... for a special occasion in my own life’. This is not someone who sees giving as a chore or a burden. There is no suggestion of guilt rather there is the hint that giving is a joyous thing, something for a special occasion. We don’t know if the donations are made in celebration, in thanksgiving, in memoriam, or for some other reason but they are clearly very meaningful and deeply important.
It’s also clear that not only does this donor trust Oxfam to put his or her money to good use, she or he also understands that it costs money to run effective charities and that the staff need to be paid. Hurray! An enlightened donor. There can be a view in our sector that donors think fundraising is free and staff should work for nothing. Sure, there are people who believe that, but I think this donor is more typical of the public view."
However, as the letter also clearly indicates — and Damian explains in his excellent analysis — this trust has been earned. It is not unconditional. Note the last line of the letter, and the writer’s earlier comment … “I give money to Oxfam in good faith …”
Damian calls this individual a ‘dream donor’.