No More (Cruddy) PayPal Fundraising.


I am a sucker for community level fundraising. Kids on Bikes. Science for Kittens. Kale for Veterans. Shelter from the Storm. Supporting small and focused local organizations is one of the most impactful ways to support your community as a citizen. I encourage you to seek out those small organizations in your own community, those working with slim margins for tremendous results. Be generous.

That being said, PayPal is a very cruddy way to fundraise. Perhaps it is my advancing years showing but I have aversion to PayPal. Since turning off my official account I get less spam and phishing attempts in my email. It is not quite a shady service but my friends it is a very much a TRANSACTIONAL one.

Our work in 2016 should be about building philanthropy, making an emotional case to the community about our works and impacts. No one has said this better recently than in Claire Axelrad’s take on Philanthropy. It is a dream worth pursuing and a call to arms by Claire. We need to tighten up our practices. Now.

This week I gave $50 to a wonderful little organization (I am not naming names) doing amazing things in my home city of Indianapolis. What happened? First I get an email “receipt for payment”. Payment? This wasn’t a payment. This was a philanthropic gift to your good work. I make payments to the gas company.

After that I received another, second email as a “Receipt for Your Donation” reconfirming the thing that I just received an email for one minute ago. Nowhere on either communication does the receipt say thank you. Nor does PayPal explain what you are supporting, where to call with questions, what might be next for you as a donor. It is what it is, which is a confusing two step receipt. Just like if I bought some special beef jerky from the web.

This isn’t PayPal’s fault. They offer a low cost service to non-profits for transactions. But gifts cannot be seen as transactions in 2016. What happens after the initial online transaction is presumably up to the organization that received the gift. And that’s usually not much. Maybe a written acknowledgement but often not.

So a donor seeks out the organization, finds the link to give online, puts down a credit card, makes a gift. And the organization cannot be bothered for so much as a proper thank you. I am weary of this treatment.

I dislike PayPal transactions generally (call me old if you want) but if you are going to use PayPal as your fundraising solution you best:

  1. Send an immediate and personal email saying THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU. If I don’t hear from the organization directly I cannot even be sure that my support was received and not in Kenya assisting a Royal Prince to retrieve his lost family fortune from Pirates.
  2. Call every donor who makes a gift and personally thank them. You won’t do this. You won’t. I would do anything to change this but you won’t pick up the phone.
  3. Provide a warm, personalized written acknowledgement letter to the donor. I know some organizations that only acknowledge online gifts by email, assuming the donor has some grand preference against the Postal Service. Donors give in a variety of ways. Thank them properly regardless of their giving vehicle. 

Rethink your PayPal. And Call your Donors.


About jeremymhatch

If I could, I'd write about nothing but tacos. Alas, I am fundraising and leadership consultant in the arts, focusing on contributed revenue growth for organizations. Send me a compliment or complaint. And the location for the good tacos in your town.
This entry was posted in Annual Fund, Fundraising, Philanthropy and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to No More (Cruddy) PayPal Fundraising.

  1. Sara Abernethy says:

    Jeremy – thank you for posting this. I completely agree, and as a former IG Officer, you really nailed it. Sometimes these things are hard to hear, but they ARE so important for thinking about donor retention and relationships, especially as we move into a giving space that is more and more driven by technology.

    • jeremymhatch says:

      Thanks Sara, I appreciate the feedback. These are such easy corrections to make. Individual giving is so very challenging already – even when we do every single thing right the donor might still move on or lose interest. So we need to do a better job of avoiding the unforced errors. Thanks for reading and best wishes for 2016!

  2. Pingback: Your Online Giving Page Makes Me Sad. | artful fund raiser

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