It was the perfect example of what not to do and how to mislead your donors.
There were many issues with this invitation, but the biggest issue was the RSVP card. The card had two checkboxes: One for “Yes, I will attend” and one for “No, I am unable to attend.”
This is all well and good, except that when I read the entire invitation, it became clear that this was more than just a simple RSVP. By checking “Yes I will attend,” I was actually checking “Yes I will attend and recommit my yearly gift.”
This luncheon is for major donors, so these yearly gifts are not small. We’re talking about $5,000 donations, at a minimum.
Here’s the problem with asking for gift commitments this way: You are missing the chance to interact with your major donors and deepen your relationship. In my opinion, asks this large should always be done in person.
At this level of giving, donors should receive updates about the organization and how their money is being used on a regular basis. And they simply must be solicited in person.
By as asking for a major gift on an RSVP card the organization missed a major donor cultivation opportunity. By taking the opportunity to build and preserve donor relationships, this organization could have secured increased gifts, rather than flat gifts.
I also wondered what would have happened if I had not read the information carefully. Would I have committed to a gift of $5k or more? Was I the only one who was confused? What did other donors think? Did they check the RSVP box and not realize that they were committing to a gift to that year’s campaign?
When designing invitations to a special event, it’s important to make your donor’s feel special, rather than making them feel unappreciated. Take the time to cultivate your donors and be clear about what you need and want from them. You’re better off picking up the phone and having a quick chat than risking alienating a major donor and losing their donations for years to come.