United Airlines found itself at the center of a social media cyclone, media revolt and falling stock price this week, after a horrifying video that went viral. The scene: a doctor being forcibly removed from a coach class seat on one of its planes.

According to published reports, the passenger was randomly selected to be bumped because the airline needed to transport four employees on the sold-out flight. The doctor refused to leave, airline officials called law enforcement, and security dragged him, bloodied, off the plane.

So why in the world is fundraising Agitator calling your attention to this mess?
Because in ways –big and small—United’s response is similar to what consumers –and yes, donors—are experiencing with organizations that are increasingly growing out of touch with the folks they should be serving.

Of course, most of our donors aren’t dragged down an airplane aisle or assaulted at a fundraising event because they bid too high (or low) at a silent auction.  But, sadly, they are subjected to disrespectful treatment reflective of our societies’  growing income divide.

Don’t get me wrong.  I do understand the need to discriminate among donors for a variety of legitimate reasons.  But what I don’t get is that why organizations who trip all over themselves to make sure Ms. Big Bucks understandably gets special treatment and special handling feel free to fundamentally ignore the rest of their donors.

Donors not seated in “first class” according to our algorithms or budget treatments are out of luck.  Less communication.  Less recognition. Less…less…less.

The way we care for our donors is not an either-or situation. Surely, we can give high potential donors special treatment.  And just as surely, we can treat the clear majority of donors with the respect, adulation, and information they deserve.

But, if you treat donor service and donor care as a cost center to be trimmed and trimmed then you’re no better than United Airlines.  If you really don’t understand my point click on these earlier posts here and here.

Ethically and for the sake of your organization’s future where do you come down?


P.S.  In my next post I’ll outline a marvelous set of examples and rules on building loyalty, retention and commitment.  Meanwhile, please use the weekend to think about the “donor care” line item in your budget.

P.P.S.  And while you’re at it you might want to read up on the Lesson of the Widow’s Mite



This article was posted in: Breaking Out of the Status Quo, Communications, Donor Centricity, Donor retention / loyalty / commitment, Nonprofit management, Social media, Starting Over, Uncategorized.
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