Minimum donation levels

Howard Lake | 3 April 2008 | Blogs

What would you think if you were my colleague Fran who was called on at home the other night by a fundraiser on behalf of a development charity? She didn’t know much about the charity, but after giving the fundraiser a good grilling she was impressed enough to give them a go and offered to sign up at £2.00 per month.
Now instead of being welcomed as a new supporter, she was told that £2 a month wasn’t enough and that the minimum they could accept was £5 per month – and really that was pretty cheap as they usually only take £10! By the way, this is not a sponsorship programme either.
The fundraiser walked away without Fran’s money and in her words “I went to bed feeling like a nasty cheapskate who doesn’t care enough”. Are we on dangerous ground here? Whereas in the sector we understand about the costs involved in acquisition, how would potential donors who have no understanding of fundraising return on investment or lifetime values feel about being turned away as ‘not worth the effort’?
My colleagues in Whitewater Research have shown that baby boomer generation donors don’t believe that we can change the world for £2 a month, but much of our DRTV and DM recruitment is aimed at this level and other generations, and especially the young, do think that it is OK to give at this level.
If all this wasn’t bad enough, next morning at work Fran decided she still liked the idea of supporting this charity and thought she would check out their website and give via online direct debit. Same thing – nothing less than £5 is enough to make it worthwhile processing the payment.
Now I don’t know if I’m missing something here, but in a world where it is getting tougher to acquire new donors, to deliberately exclude donors who may be supporting a few charities at £2 a month, or who maybe younger and not in a position to give £5 a month, is either very brave or just a bit crazy. Target donors whose life stage or circumstances put them in the higher gift bracket by all means, but this policy of minimum donation levels is not one that any charity I support should consider or I will certainly cancel.