The “it” I refer to in the headline is authenticity. Surprised? Then get your mind out of the gutter (this isn’t Dan Savage’s column) and back on fundraising.

My life partner just received an email solicitation from an organization he has never given to, but with whom he has a close professional relationship.

The email started out cordially, like a personal email from the ED (who my partner knows). The ED addressed him by name and said it had been a long time since they had chatted and that he’d like to catch up soon. My partner was excited. It had been a long time.

But…. the cordial catch up note quickly pivoted into a mass appeal generic enough to be sent to anyone on the ED’s LinkedIn profile.

And then…the email requested a $1,000 gift. Did I mention that my partner hadn’t given to this organization before?

My partner shared the news with me and creatively described the situation as “being in the middle of a disappointment sandwich.” On one side, he was extremely disappointed about the authenticity bait and switch. He had actually thought his colleague was emailing him personally before the reality of mass email set in.

On the other side, he was extremely disappointed that the ED didn’t call to make the ask and instead relied on a generic email. The organization clearly needed the money and the ED has a strong relationship with my partner — who said he would have given the donation had the ED personally reached out.

So how do we avoid supporter disappointment sandwiches? Here are two important lessons:

  • Bait and switch authenticity is bad. Don’t fake authenticity. It’ll backfire. 
  • Don’t treat your insiders like everybody else. They deserve special treatment — particularly when being asked for large donations. Pick up the phone or write them a note. That call would have taken 10 minutes and the ED would have walked away with a new 1k donor.