And get you thinking.

Apparently we’re succeeding, judging from the thoughtful comment by Tom Ahern in response to my post on feedback.

Tom takes umbrage with my snarky and no doubt intemperate comments on what I described as somewhat superficial approaches to ‘donor centricity’, whatever that is.

First, let me apologize for any language that came across as either vacuous or hyperbolic. As a copywriter I’m embarrassed if I wasn’t clear.

Let me try again.

I’m not opposed — in fact I’m a cheerleading fan — of effective efforts to focus on the donor. And few in our trade have done more of this than Tom. (Can you even begin to imagine the sacrifice involved in getting on airplane after airplane to visit and speak and preach at local AFP chapters. That’s a lot of peanuts, trail mix, lousy coffee and waiting lines. Grueling.).

When Tom insists that the ‘you’ pronoun is important, I completely agree. And when he lays out his formulae for winning donor newsletters, I applaud.

All of these recommendations that Tom and others who focus on welcoming, informing, recognizing and otherwise praising and involving the donor are absolutely essential. And the Tom Aherns of our world tell you how.


Part of my job is to thank Tom. To recognize his work and the soundness of his advice.

My role is not to kiss his ass.

The point of my post on feedback was not to snipe or criticize those who focus on donors, but merely to point out that all this good effort simply doesn’t go far enough when it comes to being donor centric.

And, this is where the misunderstanding comes in; we simply should not be satisfied by thinking these tactics are enough. They aren’t.

As far as they go they’re great, and you’ll be wise to follow this advice. But the advice is incomplete and it’s not Ahern’s or any other expert’s job to complete the circle.

What it ignores is abundant evidence and research of why donors quit. Why they’re frustrated. And most importantly, evidence of how you can do a much better job dealing with ’em. As in changing the abusive frequency of appealing to them … presenting them with the correct offers … and, of course listening to them. Empirically, all these count for more than simply thanking them or inserting ‘you’ pronouns.

Our job here at The Agitator is to point out what we think is missing and what other elements of domorcenricity you should be thinking about.

That’s exactly why we pointed out that an essential missing ingredient is seeking donor feedback.

Or, in other posts,  the demonstrable, empirically proven, fact that mailing less will actually raise more money.

Or directing you to processes and technology that will help you spot those actions your organization is taking that either helps donors stay or drives them away.

Tom (and dozens of others) including myself are copywriters by trade. We do have good and terrific instincts. And we do read, study and do our damndest to stay up to date with trends.

But nothing in our experience and self-taught careers can equal specific research and empirical findings.

So when The Agitator reports that mailing less, raises more, we’re not giving you our hunches and instincts. We’re reporting facts and studies.

We’ve reviewed case studies, reported on them and hope you’ll give them consideration.

Because The Agitator is affiliated with sister companies DonorTrends, DonorVoice and TrueGivers, there is, of course, a commercial connection. And we make that clear whenever we report research findings. Of course these companies are in the business to make money, just as Tom Ahern and most of our readers are. But the profit motive either in Tom or our sister companies’ case doesn’t equal intellectual corruption.

Tom Ahern makes his living preaching, presenting and writing. Thank heaven he does because the world would be poorer if he didn’t. If we publish thoughts and findings that challenge his opinions, we have no intention of challenging his livelihood. After all, we’re using some of our resources to share other thoughts with you.

Whenever we challenge the status quo and sometimes piss off folks like Tom, it’s not that we’re saying he’s wrong or his wisdom isn’t valuable (it absolutely is). We’re simply saying it may be incomplete and sometimes there’s evidence to the contrary.

This is the process by which the world moves forward. And why we not only piss off Tom, but hopefully, a whole bunch of other talented folks as well.

That’s our job here at The Agitator.


This article was posted in: Breaking Out of the Status Quo, Fundraising analytics / data, Fundraising philosophy/profession, Nonprofit management.
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