In spite of trying to be socially appropriate in our interactions, we’ve all made social faux pas. While sometimes this is funny, it can also be offensive and even disrespectful. These are things many of us experience every day- someone texting on their phone while talking with you, not answering phones or calling you back, failing to thank someone for a gift, or ignoring a nicely mailed invitation. But when it comes to charity, these faux pas definitely are not funny.
Fundraisers need to be particularly aware of how to be appropriate when communicating with donors. The rules in this area are very well understood – to respect the donor’s time, to get to the point about what a gift will accomplish, and to identify why funds are needed now – the “call to action.” There is also a long list of things not to do, including using guilt, pity, fear, or a donor’s pride to ask for a donation.
Charities likewise can fail to respond appropriately when a gift is received, with the number one faux pas being to fail to acknowledge the gift; but even a form letter or computer generated receipt may not be considered proper. And there are a few horror stories, including one where a charity in the UK had a computer glitch and one month all of the donors who give monthly using direct debit had withdrawals 100x their usual monthly gift. Of course this was corrected, but nonetheless it was a misstep.
Donors, including charitable foundations, also sometimes don’t follow social norms, including ignoring inquiries about funding, not considering a charity’s need for general (overhead or administrative) support, in thinking that newer is better, and in thinking they know everything. But most foundations or donors would never be told this because charities are very careful not to do anything that may upset a donor.
Some faux pas are indeed quite funny. I am saddened that Joan Rivers has passed away because she was a pioneer; she put herself out there, and she was truly funny. Joan was famous for going to celebrity award nights and waiting for arrivals so she could point out their fashion faux pas. I laughed when I read that she said, “When someone comes out looking terrible, you go, Thank You, God.”
I am glad that we can laugh at our mistakes and at times when we are inappropriate; but on the serious side, as a charity the Community Foundation strives to always interact with donors, grantees, and the community in an appropriate manner. I think we’re doing a pretty good job at that. If you or a client would like some professional philanthropic services, please give us a call.
We’ll always respect the donor and their wishes and provide appropriate support to help achieve real impact.
We connect people who care with causes that matter.
Chris Askin, President & CEO