Let’s keep in touch!

Published by Marjolein van de Paverd on

I had my first fundraising experience when I was a kid. I supported an animal welfare organization as a member of their youth program and collected money door to door. After a few years I got busy growing up and quit spending time on the organization. But as soon as I finished my study and started working I supported them again, this time as a donor. And you know what?

They didn’t recognize me anymore! After all the effort I put into the organization they did not have any knowledge about our shared past. What a disappointment this was…

Now I am a grown up and again experiencing how charities (dis)connect with children. By the time you read this I would have just finished a short talk about Greenpeace at my daughter’s school. The school organized several activities around the theme ‘litter’. And since I ‘work for litter’ as my daughter puts it, I have to tell something about it at school. (I’d better not show these cute kids the horrific pictures of birds dying from these tiny little plastic caps they have on their drinking bottles…)

TileSince my daughter started school one and a half year ago she already contributed to three charities. She ran for 15 (!) minutes collecting money for a playground, made Christmas decorations for a children’s foundation and a couple of weeks ago she decorated a tile with a painting of her hand to support another children’s foundation. And I was, of course, being all happy and proud and donating money for all these efforts.

So, here I am again: supporting causes that don’t even know I exist or realize what effort my ‘mini-me’ putted into them. I like the idea of the kids being active for charities but I don’t like the fact that we don’t connect. I really had to make an effort to find out what charity I was supporting this time. They did not reach out to me at all. I find this strange, don’t you? It’s a good thing that charities don’t push kids to become donor or immediately ask for their opt-in. But it seems a waste to not have any contact with me or the kids at all.

Who learns young, forgets not when he is old

When kids get acquainted with your cause in a positive way they will almost never forget. They really feel they contributed; they have been part of your charity and already know something about the work you do. Chances are big that your charity is still top of mind when they have money of their own and are ready to financially support an organization.

Let’s keep in touch

9 Out of 10 times you will not have the contact details of the children who supported you because all communications are done by school. But how about offering them a fun way to stay connected? Like WWF does with their entertaining youth club ‘Rangers’ with 93.000 members in the Netherlands, collecting 400.000 euro in 2012. Did you fail to stay in touch? Why don’t you ask your new donors if you have met before? This is easily done by adding this question to your welcome calls or questionnaire. How great it would be to meet an old friend again!

Thank you!

Let’s go back to the current situation: me supporting all these charities that I don’t know of. Myself and all the other (grand) parents are at this point the actual donors. They are the ones supporting the kids’ efforts and therefore your cause. Do you reach out to them? I have not heard from any charity since. Why don’t you try to find a way to thank the donors for their support? For example by writing a small letter that the children can take home to thank the parents (=donors) for their contribution.

This is what you contributed to

Show the kids what they achieved with their effort. Visit the school and share the results. Don’t feel content by giving them a quick call or sending them an email. Pay them a visit! This is how you handle valuable friends. This one visit will contribute to your relationship with the kids, the donors (parents) ánd the school so it is very useful to invest time in this!

Can I help you?

The schools are the crucial link in making your fundraising program successful. They decide whether they will organize an event for your charity so you need to build up a relationship with them. Schools often seek for charities that fit their schools philosophy or causes that have a local connection. If you plan to start fundraising with schools you could focus on these schools first. Teachers are really busy teaching and often do not have the time to develop projects on their own. Your charity could help them with providing an appealing theme, materials, ideas for activities and sponsor materials.

I think there are lots of opportunities for charities to improve their fundraising activities at schools. By optimizing these processes and invest time in the relationships with schools, their students and donors you are not only contributing to this year’s results but actually building long lasting relationships that can contribute to your cause up to 20 years from now. Seems like a wise investment!

Oh, and before I forget. This is what tiny little plastic caps do with birds:Brought to you by Coca Cola

Marjolein van de Paverd

Marjolein van de Paverd has learned all fundraising tips & tricks while working as a fundraiser for Greenpeace for more than 10 years. In 2011 she postgraduated on CRM and customer-oriented businesses. Marjolein currently works as Manager Fundraising at Stichting AAP, a primates and other exotic animals rescue centre in the Netherlands: www.aap.nl.


Charlie Hulme · March 11, 2013 at 15:21

Maybe charities deliberatley don’t thank kids so as to manage their expectations for future communications when they’re adults? ; )

    Marjolein van de Paverd · March 11, 2013 at 21:26

    Haha Charlie, I hope not! :-)

Leslie Hurd · April 14, 2013 at 23:29

I agree that poor donor stewardship/thanking can be a problem with nonprofits. It pains me to hear of your stories – especially not bothering to somehow follow up/communicate with you (much less THANK! you).

But, I would push back just a tad by sharing the professional fundraiser’s side, which is we are careful not to solicit children, as they are a bit like the very elderly donor (say with dementia) who we don’t want to annoy/be insensitive to (or or at worst, be perceived a scam, by targeting them when they are vulnerable).

It’s possible if you moved away since your childhood, the nonprofit didn’t connect you adult “John” as child “Johnny” who donated so generously so long ago. This is particularly true for people who change names through marriage/etc.

I am curious how the nonprofit treated you after you shared that you were child Johnny? Were they immediately appreciative in person or on the phone/email/etc? Did they explain they only recently upgraded from an index card database? And, most importantly, did they remember this in future communications? Did they cultivate you as the long-time donor you are? Did they invite you to share these experiences with other volunteers/children/donors/etc?

If they did none of these, huge shame on them! If they did, that is worth sharing (well, either response is worth sharing!).

All that said, you have terrific suggestions for engaging youth in our causes and I learned from these and will use! Thank you for your article!!

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