A Donor Horror Story – Don’t Do This!

images1DRJYW0CShe’s a single parent, let’s call her Ann.

When her daughter Mary was 8 years old, they decided to sponsor a child in South America through a reputable organization. Together they chose a girl who was the same age as Mary.

It felt good to make a difference. Their monthly donation was not only helping the little girl, it was helping her community as well.

Mary was thrilled to hear from this sponsored girl and over the years they exchanged many letters.

It was such a good experience, that they decided to sponsor a second child, a boy in Africa.

Time went by and Ann fell on hard times. She felt horrible, but she knew she had to phone the organization and let them know she could no longer sponsor these two children.

As a fundraiser, I’ve taken calls like this myself. I would hear in their voice that they felt bad about having to cancel their monthly donations.  I would thank them for all the support they had given, tell them I understood their decision and wished them well.

When Ann phoned, she was told that she was being transferred to the donor retention department or some other equally offensive department name. Ann questioned this and asked why the person she was speaking with couldn’t honour her request.

Nevertheless, she was transferred to a new person who asked Ann if she wouldn’t prefer to just suspend her donations and have them automatically start up again in 3 months. Ann, who by this point, was starting to get frustrated restated that she wished to cancel the automatic withdrawal from her bank account.

You would think that would be the end of it but the woman at the organization then said, “But what about the children? Don’t you care what happens to them?”

Thankfully Ann stood her ground. She thought about following up with the organization’s leadership, but never did.

A week later she received a letter from the organization informing her how she could start donating again if her financial situation improved. But Ann had been so hurt by this experience with the organization that there was no chance she would ever support them again.

If we don’t care about our donors, our organization and ultimately those whom we care for, will suffer.

The purpose of this blog 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. Louise Gallagher

    I had the same thing happen with an organization recently. I had been giving monthly withdrawals and decided to move my donation to another organization. It actually took me three months for someone to respond to my request to stop the withdrawals!

    Great post Diana — very important!

  2. bulldog

    There are a few things that concern me about some donor organisations like one of our cancer research organisations, where only 15 % of the collections and donations actually make it to the researchers, the rest going as admin fees…. one of our Rhino donor organisations has now also been accused of a similar skimming…. it is such, that make those that are doing their best for whom they represent, so much harm…. was this organisation worried about the kids or just their loss of admin fees…??

    • The Other Bottom Line

      It is shocking Mary, sometimes internal processes are just followed because that’s the way it’s always been done and no one remembers why or questions the logic.

      It’s a reminder that when we are looking to improve efficiency we need to remember to look through the lens from the donor’s perspective; play our strategy out to the end, so to speak.

      Thanks for stopping by Mary!

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