Non-profit PR Should Not Be an Apology

When it comes to twirly mustache cartoon villains in our culture, nothing quite fits the bill as politicians and attorneys. Seems like everyone thinks they’re Bad Guys. Until they need one, of course. Then it’s all: Please, please, you’re my only hope!

Well, add another unlikely scoundrel to that list. Nonprofit fundraisers. On the surface, it seems logical. Charities need money to do good work, so they put on events and manage fundraisers to acquire those funds. The more funds they get, the more good work they can do. Again, that seems simple.

Until you get a call in the middle of dinner. Jim or Bob or Flo with the fraternal order of whatever is raising money for something, and you just want to finish your meal in peace. Then there are the robocalls and rumors of sweaty call centers where poor unfortunate saps huddle over phones under the lash of their Paid On Commission boss man.

Suddenly, charity fundraising is right up there with tobacco commercials and drug side effects on everyone’s list of Julie Andrews’ LEAST favorite things. Worse, from a PR standpoint, most charities are choosing the Ignore It And Hope It Goes Away form of response. Instead of meeting criticism with honest reality, they shrink from accusations and melt when confronted. Sure, it may make them seem all friendly and cuddly, but it also leads to insolvency. You can’t help anyone when you can’t make your bills.

Sure, the world need not be populated with for-profit scam centers making cash money off 80 cents of every dollar donated, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a happy medium. Nonprofits need to help people understand no one gives unless they are asked. And when no one gives, nothing gets done. So, you have to make the ask, and you have to ask in the most efficient and profitable way. In other words, a way that works. Well, what works? That’s entirely based on how people respond to the request … and that, friends, is up to the donor.

That is the message nonprofits could be sending. Look, we don’t like bothering you any more than you like being bothered. But we have this really important thing that needs doing, and we couldn’t do as good a job without your help. Thanks.

Suddenly the specter of dim, smoky rooms full of phones is gone, replaced by one person with an opportunity to be a hero. Because, really, that’s what it’s all about.

Roman Temkin is a real estate developer from NYC.

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