What is there to say when a nonprofit acts like a desperado — throwing caution to the wind to try to squeeze some cash out of unsuspecting (or even suspecting) donors?

I was pretty speechless this week when I received three emails — one each day — from a decades-old, well-established, and respected nonprofit in Northern California. Note that I do not live in, nor have I ever lived in, Northern California, and I have never interacted with this organization at all.

The first email caught me by surprise, as the subject line reads “Your gift status”. Huh? This is what it looks like:

Name: Lisa Greer

Your pledge gift status: PENDING

Remaining days of pledge: 2

Pledge goal: $1.5M

Amazing. I never made a pledge, I never signed up for their mailing list, and I never had anything at all to do with them. Are they suggesting that I should pledge $1.5M to them in the next two days — or that I’m part of their $1.5M goal? Was that written that way to be purposely vague?

This is the most extreme version of “Don’t ask, don’t get” that I’ve seen.

But it gets better! The next day I received another email from the same nonprofit, with the subject line “Will you help us cross the finish line?” This email said:

Last chance to pledge your support.

I’ve discussed this in previous newsletters…. last chance? You won’t accept money next week?

Finally, I got another (same organization again) the next day, with another plea to pledge my support immediately. The email says that I’ve enjoyed their programming for this past year and so I must financially support them.

I’m so sorry that this nonprofit is in such dire financial shape, which must be the case, because why else would they resort to this kind of marketing? On the other hand, is it possible that they are doing fine, but they just want more money? Where did they get my name, anyway? Did they purchase it as part of a list? (I’ve heard, sadly, that many nonprofits sell their lists to garner “earned income”. Ugh.) Only they know the answers to these questions, and I’m not going to bother engaging with them to find them out for myself.

Clearly, this kind of solicitation doesn’t work for me — and I’m guessing that it’s the same for other donors. This organization, one that I really never thought of before, is now permanently in my brain as one that I want nothing to do with.

I know that this “chump method” of fundraising isn’t the norm, but between this method and the gaslighting one, these are a bad idea that has no place in professional NPO fundraising.

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- Lisa