Wisdom Wednesdays: Why Ask? – Christmas Giving

by Ellen Cattadoris

During the first week of November I had a meeting with our Executive Director to discuss the upcoming Christmas mailing. I felt completely uninspired. I was worried about writing a meaningful letter for the generous people who support our organization during Advent and Christmas.

I tried to prepare a draft in advance of the meeting, but everything I put on the page felt vaguely familiar. This was my fifth Christmas letter for Lutheran Music Program and it seemed I’d used up all the “good stuff” for a faith-based music organization to talk about in December. Last year, I asked people about their favorite Christmas carol. The year prior, I wrote about the angel choir in the Gospel of Luke. I’d already addressed Advent and family and the beautiful music that makes Christmas … well, Christmas.

Cattadoris-Ellen-grayAs the meeting approached, my inner skeptic started to take over. Everything I wrote felt inauthentic and I started to think about those horrible statistics — you know what I’m talking about – 98 percent of direct mail ends up tossed aside or thrown in the garbage or lost in the mail or eaten by the dog.  No one reads letters anymore, so what’s the point? Why take the time to create a meaningful “ask” – particularly during such a hectic time of year?

By sheer good fortune (or perhaps my tendency toward procrastination) I stumbled on an article in a fundraising magazine during my struggle with writer’s block. In the article, the author describes how his mother sets aside time each week to read correspondence from her favorite charities. He writes that although she is on a limited income and not always able to respond to every request, she does read them. This idea stopped me in my tracks. It reminded me that the best “ask” letters aren’t focused only on receiving.  They also give something back to the people who care enough to support charitable organizations.

Now, before you think I’m in some sort of holiday-induced sugar haze, let me explain myself. I understand that we all have goals to meet and budgets to balance. But as development professionals who have the privilege of serving Christian philanthropists, I think it is equally important to remind our supporters why they donate. Our goal is to connect people to mission. To share honest, authentic stories about the good work being accomplished with their gift. To assure donors that their sustaining support changes lives.

Why do we ask? We ask to receive, but we should also ask to share and inform. To let people know how much they are appreciated. We are in the midst of a month that is all about giving. What better time to reach out and thank people for their generosity? To start from a place of gratitude? Yes, it is entirely possible that after all of your agony over comma placement (okay, that might just be me), your carefully crafted letter will end up buried in a snowbank or covered in eggnog. But I promise that the donors who respond (and those who would if they were able) will appreciate your thoughtful update. They will find joy in being thanked by a ministry they care about during a season that reminds us how important it is to share our gifts with others. Merry Christmas!

Ellen Cattadoris is Development Manager at the Lutheran Music Program in Minneapolis, Minn.


Wisdom Wednesdays: Social Media is the Buzz … But do we Always Know About the Sting?

by Beth Nelson Chase

I have literally come across the divide, cutting my teeth entering data on a DOS based computer system during my music therapy/social service days with Lutheran Social Services of Illinois in the last century, to truly embracing Facebook, texting, tweeting and linking to people and places around the world in ways never before dreamed possible!

Nelson Chase-BethOne of the most current concerns with social media and donor relations — but not always receiving much attention — is the protection of consumers.  Having tuned into a webinar to learn more about this (“Social Media and Events: Legal Knowledge Nonprofits Need to Know,” with Charlene Chronicles on Eventbrite), I listened halfheartedly to insurance coverage and contract tips, but my ears perked up on Facebook no-nos!  Take note of these several recent social media cases and especially the stringent regulations on Facebook …

It is a Facebook legal no-no to promote events or contests in this manner: “We will give away two tickets to (any event) for the best comments generated over the next hours, days, etc.”  In this case Facebook deleted that organization’s Facebook page and it will never have the opportunity to be represented on Facebook again … no appeal, no stay.  If an organization wishes to offer something in this way, Rafflecopter, a platform for giveaway items is the better option. Though we all wish to see more traffic, likes and shares on our Facebook pages and often generate these through a question, be careful what you ask.  Though Twitter may be less stringent in this form, it is wise to check out each social media platform’s guidelines.  Likewise you cannot announce winners for events or contests on Facebook or you will see the same result … no page!  But that is not currently the case with Twitter or on your own website.

YouTube is also moving toward consumer protection in both visual and music content.  We all know that in print publication it is necessary to have waivers or written permission for pictorial content and further parental/guardian permission of these for minors.  Recent crackdowns in this area have seen a number of uploads now banished.  Likewise you also need to obtain permission for the use of songs and recordings that seem to overwhelmingly accompany the picture slideshows.  One part of me thinks this will somehow curtail some of the most creative uploads that people have imagined, but the other side of me also knows that composers deserve their creative credit and rights!

As we tweet, the legalities are just beginning to form through case law, and much is yet to be written.  So stay tuned to the latest postings from all sources as we learn from connecting, linking and building relationships with our donors and supporters in all ways.

Beth Nelson Chase is Vice President for Bright Stars of Bethlehem in Mt. Morris, Ill.