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Six Ways to Really Scare Away Your Donors

This popular article is reprinted from October 2009. Enjoy!

Halloween is upon us…and there is no more appropriate topic that we could cover than how to effectively scare away donors.  In the, um, spirit of the season, let’s look at six ways to guarantee donors will want nothing to do with you!

Be undefinable. Keep ’em guessing, we say.  Why box yourself into a specific purpose when you can be fluid and flexible…you know, all things to all people.  You need the freedom to pounce on whatever new cause-de-jour comes along.  Let those other nonprofits label themselves.  Not you, though…you be a chameleon.  Keep changing it up.

Be ineffective. Boy, this one gets them every time.  If you want to make a really bad impression, just refuse to accomplish anything measurable.  Rely on grand platitudes and empty rhetoric.  Plan constantly, but never, ever get anything done.  That’s waaaay too much work.  Hey, I know…just pretend you are a congressman!  Talk the talk, then talk some more!  With a little practice, you’ll be a pro at kicking the can down the street.

Have a lousy website. Did you know that more than half of all potential donors will check out a nonprofit’s website before they commit to giving?  Reward their nosiness by having as bad a website as possible.  Make sure it looks like it was created in Microsoft Word…in 2002.  The navigation should be hard to find.  Better yet, make sure half your links don’t work.  Never outline your mission and programs…or profile your leadership…or report your accomplishments (you’re not supposed to have any of those, anyway).  Oh, and never show your IRS 501(c)(3) status or discuss tax deductibility.  And for good measure, be sure and advertise your president’s business on every page.

Refuse to be compliant. Nobody is going to tell you what to do, especially the government.  All those rules and requirements?  Forget about it.  Keeping your programs within 501(c)(3) guidelines?  None of anybody’s business.  Filing a properly prepared Form 990?  Yeah, right.  I wouldn’t even file one.  Registering with your state’s Department of Charitable Solicitations?  Why bother!  What can they do…fine you?  Bring it on!  Noncompliance is the perfect way to sabotage even the best fundraising plans.  Donors hate noncompliance.  And forget about getting competent counsel.  Those know-it-alls just want your money, anyway.

Mess up with your money. If you want to make the biggest splash, make sure your nonprofit is the subject of the next money scandal.  Your donors and board members…they’ll scatter like cockroaches!  To do it with gusto, you must make sure that your recordkeeping is terrible.  Don’t track anything!  That’s for those egghead types.  Your financial reports should be practically incomprehensible…that is, if you even bother to have any.  For maximum effectiveness, we recommend having non-exempt money-making programs, insider dealing and last, but not least, commingling of funds with someone’s personal or business accounts.  If you’re gonna go, go big!

Don’t appreciate your supporters. Take them for granted.  Never communicate, never include…and never, ever thank them.  Make it a policy to act as if they don’t exist.  This is your nonprofit, not theirs.  Besides, you don’t need them anyway!  You can do this all…by… yourself.

Have a happy Halloween!

Greg McRay, EA

Greg McRay, EA

Greg McRay is the founder and CEO of The Foundation Group. He is registered with the IRS as an Enrolled Agent and specializes in 501(c)(3) and other tax exemption issues.

This Post Has 5 Comments
  1. Keep the sarcasm coming! Sometimes that’s the only thing some people understand. You have great suggestions, hopefully people will listen.

    1. But Terry…sarcasm is much more fun to write! To your point, though…most of our weekly articles are “the things that should be done”. Sometimes it takes a little sarcasm to make the point as to why these things matter.

    2. I learned way more from this with the sarcasm than I would have without it. Wonderfully written and informative.

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