‘Biggest Temper Tantrum Ever:’ Drowning in Year-End Fundraising Emails

Fundraising email image

2013 is damn near done, but the 2013 fundraising season sure isn’t: I received six emails this morning alone from Democratic party committees and individual candidates, plus a couple of messages from nonprofits (on top of a slew of others late in the week, after a brief break on Christmas Day).

Of course there’s a good reason for the barrage, since many Americans open their wallets for charities and causes between Christmas and New Year’s Day. And while political “gifts” don’t yield a tax break, nonprofit donations do — and many wealthier people (i.e., donors) are balancing their books for the year in the last days of December. Still, with so many groups and campaigns pounding essentially the same pool of donors at the same time, I wonder how much we’re ultimately just cannibalizing funds from each other.

Another problem: the messages (so many alike) blend into a blur of catchy(?) subject lines and “give now” buttons, with very little to distinguish one from another. “Biggest temper tantrum ever!”, says the House Majority PAC, hoping I’ll quiet the baby by donating to their “Tea Party Rapid Response Fund.” “Don’t Hold Back,” advises Van Jones as he asks for my help for the Center for American Progress. Meanwhile, the DNC hopes that I’ll want to know what “The I-word” is that their subject line mentions (hint: impeachment). Etc ad nauseum: ask follows beg follows plea, and I’m just a man, not a cash machine.

I wish I knew a better way! But I don’t: email fundraising works, while other online channels (like social media) rarely do. And it works not just in terms of cash, since someone who’s donated to a campaign or organization is now invested in its success, quite literally, and is likely to help in other ways if offered the opportunity. But I do worry about long-term donor burnout, since we run the risk of poisoning the proverbial well by clogging it with deleted messages.

Here’s a New Year’s resolution: let’s see what we can do as online communicators to expand the range of things we ask supporters to do, so that we’re NOT just asking for cash again and again. Let’s also think of new ways to test channels other-than-email, so that my inbox can have a brief respite. And for god’s sake, let’s broaden the donor base as much as we can, so that we’re NOT all emailing the same people (a few percent of Americans at most) all the time. Deal? Deal.


Written by
Colin Delany
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