From the Email Bag

Dear Readers:

We have a few wonderful e-mails in response to the last set of Dear Kims. I start with one from one of mentors, Joan Flanagan, who is also a good friend. Among many things we have in common is the ability to channel for our cats, and she was kind enough to send along some thoughts from Sneakers, her cat.

Following that is a very helpful set of suggestions for the organization receiving a lot of $1 and $2 gifts, and finally a letter from a volunteer describing her experience trying to be responsible and responsive to an organization she loves. For those of you dealing with volunteers, please read this letter more than once because we get too few views from that side of the bench.

As always, thanks to everyone (fleshy, furry or feathered) who takes the time to write, and thanks to all of who take the time to read our e-newsletter. Best wishes to each and everyone of you during this spring fundraising season.

~Kim Klein


Dear Kim:

Joan read me your answer to Meowing for Dollars, and I am so glad you are giving such good advice to this group.  As the most beautiful cat in the world, may I also recommend that she use LOTS of photos on their brochures and website.  Marketing experts say to “put a face on the issue,” and what makes a better “Case” than lots of kitty faces?  If you use lots of photos, it gives you a nice entree to ask their humans to volunteer and give money.

~Sneakers (as dictated to: Joan Flanagan, Center for New Community Chicago, IL)



Dear Kim:

I am writing in response to the letter in your column about the organization that is receiving lots of $1 or $2 gifts.  My organization works with a lot of students (high school and college) and the majority of our staff is seasonal, so it is very common that we would receive small $1 or $2 cash gifts from these people.

The beauty is that these people sometimes become very generous donors once they have steady work.  I have several people who gave just $1 or $2 when they worked as a seasonal staff person or as a high school counselor, but now give in our monthly giving program.  I’ve also received generous donations from these people when they receive tax returns or other times when they have been flush with cash.  If we can cultivate their sense of philanthropy when they only can give $1 or $2, then we can benefit when they have the money to give more.

Sometimes we need to consider just building relationships with people, not because of the money they can give us, but because of their dedication to our work.  These people may only have $1 or $2 to give us, but they have a vote, a voice, a willingness to volunteer, and a network of other people that can all benefit us.  I would encourage your readers to look at these people from a different perspective – make friends not just for the money that they can give.

I fully realize that many of us (including my organization) are on a shoe-string budget, but we can be creative in how we communicate.  How about email?  This reaches those donors who are tech savvy.  Also, I just send postcard (1/2 of an 8.5 x 11 sheet) updates 3-6 times a year when we have news to report to those who want paper mail and full newsletters just twice a year.  It saves resources (money and trees), time (ours and theirs), and energy and our donors love it…our bottom line is proving such!

I really enjoy your work, Kim.  Thank you for all that you have given to the nonprofit sector!

Most Sincerely,
Kim Silva
Portland , OR



Dear Kim:

I wanted to add to your response to “Rather do it myself” regarding volunteers.  I volunteered for an AIDS Service Organization for several years.  During that time I was working only part-time, so I could respond to their requests for help with pretty short notice, which I did on a fairly regular basis.  I helped with bulk mailings of their newsletter, drove clients to appointments, facilitated a youth group, helped with their annual fundraising events and basically was there when they needed me.  When I became employed full time, I spoke with the volunteer manager about what kinds of activities I could do and what I would no longer be able to do.  I wanted to continue to help the organization as I was still committed to its cause.  However, it was as if the volunteer manager never heard a word I said.  I continued to get requests to help with things I could no longer help with.  Despite the fact that I gave them my work schedule, I would get called at 4:00 p.m. with a request to drive a client to their support group at 7:00 p.m. that same night.  That would barely give me time to get home and change out of my work clothes, let alone eat dinner!  I hated to keep saying no, but I had no choice.  I became resentful of the organization and stopped responding to their calls. For a long time, I felt guilty. Now, I no longer contribute to that organization at all – not because I don’t believe in what they do, but because I felt disrespected.

The bottom line for me is how I am treated by an organization.  I have time, talents and some money that I would be happy to contribute to a number of organizations, but sometimes the organization has to take a look at itself before blaming their (potential) volunteers for their failures.

Just my opinion.
(Name withheld)