SO YOU WANT TO DONATE TO A CHARITABLE ORGANIZATION

I currently do donor management/donation processing for non-profits. With all the love & appreciation in the world, here are some things I wish more people would do.
  1. First of all: thank you.
    Any and all support is welcome and vital to the life of an organization, but monetary support is particularly vital. Your gift is more appreciated than the thank you letter you receive can adequately express. That said...
  2. Please give online.
    Honestly, I'm sure if you're reading this, this is pretty much the default. But this seriously saves the orgs you donate to so much time. Time saved = more effort able to be spent elsewhere + money saved + more money able to go to the cause you're supporting. Donating online will also render some of the following items irrelevant (but you should read them anyway & pass them along to your grandfather who thinks the Internet is a government conspiracy).
  3. Please make an effort to write legibly.
    I spend SO MUCH time trying to decipher addresses and messages in order to ensure proper processing & fulfillment of donor requests. You don't have to print! But it needs to be legible. Please.
  4. If you cross out part of the address, please tell us why.
    Did you move permanently? Do you have a winter & summer address? Are you crossing your spouse's name out because you split up or because they're deceased? Or because you want to give separately? Or because it's actually your relative & not your spouse at all? Obviously we can update your information regardless, but detail helps to avoid issues like duplicate accounts (or combined accounts for family members who want to give separately).
  5. Please remember there's an actual person processing your donation/note/mail piece.
    I get that getting a lot of requests for donations can be annoying! But kindness is pretty easy, and 9 times out of 10, the person on the receiving end of your anger isn't the person who made the decision that pissed you off. This also goes for if something gets messed up. It sucks & perfection is our goal. But on an average day I'm processing 5-700 donations. It can be twice that during busy times. I am human. I make mistakes. We will rectify it, but please have some grace.
  6. Please proofread/double check what you're sending.
    Did you put all the numbers of your CC? Did you fill out your check completely? If you're giving a gift in honor or memory of someone, did you put the name & full address of the person you want to be notified? Do you want the notification sent to you instead so you can hand it to them yourself, or did you just accidentally write your address? If the former, it'd be awesome if you indicate this by putting a simple 'c/o' before the address. That way I don't have to guess.
  7. If you have a deadline please please please remember that donation processing takes time.
    Whether for tax purposes or the notification for a gift given in honor of someone, if a deadline is crucial, I'd suggest mailing your donation no less than 2 wks prior, esp. if it's being mailed cross country & esp. this time of year when USPS is extra busy. That's a generous window, but better safe than sorry. For last minute tributes, online is (usually) a great option for e- or physical notifications, but you can also call the org & ask about how to expedite the processing of mailed-in gifts.
  8. Please include as much of your name & address as possible when you send in your donation.
    Did you receive a preprinted mail piece with some numbers & your name/address? Please send it back with your donation! Are you filling out information on a form/envelope? Please use your full name & address! You are a unique individual, but you are probably not the only person with your name in my database. Is the address on your check outdated or nonexistent? This is another reason you should fill out the form/envelope, especially if you want an acknowledgement.
  9. Please don't try to anonymize your mail piece or check.
    For the former, if you're in our database, I can still find you; it'll just take me more effort. For the latter, if I have to enter a check to Anonymous, I also have to justify it to my client/boss, which means I first have to do everything I can to avoid doing it (= effort = time = cost). If you want to be totally anonymous, send cash. If you want no published recognition, write a note (or check the box if provided) and your account will be flagged as someone who gives anonymously. Easy peasy.
  10. It is not necessary to write 'DON'T CALL/E-MAIL ME EVER!!!!' on the 'phone'/'email' lines of your mail piece.
    If they are blank on the mail piece, it means we don't have have them, so...you're safe. Take a breath. As a follow up: if you don't have email, it's cool. I don't need a paragraph about why you hate computers/technology/what have you.
  11. Please don't send in your change.
    Yes, every donation is appreciated. Seriously. But processing donations also costs money, and while it ultimately balances out due to larger donations, your dime doesn't cover the cost it takes to process it. If all you can spare is $0.10 a month, it's okay! But you will do more good if you just save your dimes for 10 months & then send in a $1 bill.
  12. Please especially don't send in your change just to ask to be removed from the mailing list.
    Again: all donations are appreciated! But it costs far less to simply flag someone as 'do not mail' in the database than it does to process a $0.50 donation and flag them 'do not mail' in the database. It's okay to send removal requests if you can't or don't want to donate, & it's so nice that you wanted to send a small something in as a gesture of goodwill! But ultimately if you do this you are costing the organization money. If that's not your goal, just be aware of that.
  13. More of a Tip than a Request: If you want to receive fewer mailings from the organization you're donating to, be specific in your request, but be flexible in your expectations.
    Some organizations will control it down to the month, but for most it's more general (once a year, twice a year, newsletters only, &c.). Also be aware that these things take time to process & mailings can be printed several months out (also applies to asking to be removed entirely). Be patient with us.
  14. Bonus Tip: If you're receiving a lot of unwanted mail, ask the organizations you support to not sell, rent, or otherwise share your name/address/email/phone.
    Use that exact language. Most (but not all) orgs sell/rent/share donor info (it's pretty lucrative) & all of them will likely have a 'Do Not Share' flag for donor accounts. Most orgs I've worked for won't share the information of people who ask to be removed from their mailing list, but a few (shady, imo) won't let their employees flag accounts as such unless the donor/prospect explicitly asks for it. Better safe than on a bunch of mailing lists for charities you can't/don't want to donate to.