Communicating with Different Stakeholder Groups

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RECENTLY CALGARY, ALBERTA experienced philanthropy in a BIG way. Tom Crist, the $40M dollar winner of a Lotto Max ticket declared that he’s donating the entire amount to charity.

Having lost his wife to Cancer almost two years ago, Crist will earmark most of his money to Cancer research through his foundation. His family is behind him 100%,

We would give it all back to have mom back,” declared his son.

Sadly, what started as a heart-warming news item quickly diminished when it segued to a clip of a development professional stating fundraisers will be scrambling to get in on the action, desperate to learn what other causes this foundation might support.

Granted, it is the fundraiser’s job to secure resources for their organization, but a more appropriate public message would have been to congratulate Crist on his decision, perhaps noting that:

It is through individuals like this that community truly shines. What a beautiful way to honour the memory of a wife and mother!

Yes, we should want to know if there is a fit. We should explore the possibilities by reaching out to potential partners with the understanding that is our job to connect the community with causes that ignite their passions, through building authentic relationships while honouring the wishes of those who give.


Any message we communicate is dependent upon who we are communicating with, i.e., the board of directors, volunteers, staff, donors, general public. What internal processes do you have in place to ensure that your messaging is appropriate and honouring for all of your stakeholders?

The purpose of The Other Bottom Line is to facilitate discussions that will help us all to better engage with our communities. Your participation and feedback are most welcomed and valued. Please join the discussion below.



  1. Wyrd Smythe

    The sad fact is that, in some cases, a charity is more business than not, and it is always true that the first priority for any organization is to stay alive. I’ve been tithing for years, so I get a lot of beg mail both from charities that want my dollars and from those that have received from me for years. And when I get those nice thank you letters, they always seem to include a beg for more money right now.

    At times I want to tell them all to just go to hell, I’m sick and tired of the constant, constant, constant begging.

    There is a truism that, in a loud, crowded world, the quiet and meek suck hind teat (if they get access at all), but it’s a shame it has to be that way.

    • theotherbottomline

      I am sorry to hear that your experience has been a sour one. Have you contacted these organizations and asked to be removed from their mailing lists? Or asked to just receive their newsletter or one piece of mail per year so that you can stay updated on their progress? Or you may consider donating a monthly amount that equals your usual yearly donation. Most organizations will honour these requests.

      Direct mail is an effective way to raise money, otherwise it wouldn’t be done. However donors do have the right to choose which organizations they want to support and when. I would encourage you to make your wishes clear.

  2. Wyrd Smythe

    Oh, I don’t mean to imply my experiences have soured me. As “Things That Annoy” go, it’s way, way down the list! The ones that get me down the most are the nice (but often form) letters thanking me for my donation… and immediately asking for more (the USO and Red Cross both do that). By contrast, the Union Gospel Mission (locally) sends me handwritten thank you notes and personal invitations to come visit. Stuff like that keeps them at the top of my list.

    Over the years I have sometimes indicated my preference to not receive so much mail. It often works for a year or two, but then their system changes or they just decide to try harder again. [shrug] It’s no biggie, and I understand very well the difficulties of maintaining such a system. Accommodating exceptions really complicates things, so to my mind asking for special treatment is a potential drain on their resources, which seems counter-productive. (And I’m just not a special-handling kind of guy. Makes me uncomfortable.)

    For some reason the old saying about making sausage popped into my mind. The one about how, if you see how sausage is made, you’ll never eat it again. The abstraction meaning has to do with seeing the inner workings of some system and how seeing that reality can be off-putting. Charitable organizations seem, of necessity, to have to expose the sausage-making (fund obtaining) process. Seems like it must make for a fine line to have to walk between the necessity of asking for funds versus the goal of doing good works.

    It is certainly true in my case, given the vast number of good charities, that any that (in my mind) cross any of my lines are quickly (usually forever) eliminated, and I move on to some other worthy organization.

    I stopped giving to the local Red Cross for years because they played a trick I thought very unbecoming: In the pledge form, they ordered the checkboxes something like: [ ] $100 [ ] $500 [ ] $250. In other words, a deliberate trick hoping to fool someone who wanted to give a medium donation into a higher value. If there’s one thing I really hate, it’s trickery and dishonesty. It wasn’t a mistake. I did contact them (and frankly read them the riot act), and they did admit it was a poor choice on their part.

    • theotherbottomline

      Thank you for your thoughtful reply. I love that you recieved handwritten notes and invitations – that’s how it should be!

      Non-profit organizations would do well to heed your comments, there are some real gems of insight from a donor’s perspective in there! Thanks again for joining the conversation!

  3. Healthy A-Z

    Hi Diana!
    I think this man’s donation is so heartwarming. We can be inspired by his example by thinking more of others. We really are all in this world together, and there can be such joy in giving. Who we give to is such a personal decision.
    Sending a New Year hug…

  4. Professions for PEACE

    Diana this entire blog is utterly fantastic and your writing is wonderful! I am deeply inspired about how my family’s annual donation funds can be even better utilized.
    You’ve got really wise tips here for organizations to look at: “What internal processes do you have in place to ensure that your messaging is appropriate and honouring for all of your stakeholders?” Love that question!
    Cheers, Gina

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