what i’m worth

In June 2008, I went online and bought two pair of running socks as a father’s day gift for my husband. Following that purchase, I received some semi-regular e-mail correspondence from that company. Mostly they sent offers of free shipping or instant savings if I would buy again.

Alas, I did not buy again.

Fast forward to February 2009. I receive an e-mail with personalization in the regarding line: “Toni, shop our new website easier than ever!”

I happened to be online when this message came through and thought “uh oh, that’s personalization gone wrong.” So within minutes of their goof, I sent them an email saying “Hey, my name is Kris. Who’s Toni?”

About 8 hours later, I got a new solicitation e-mail with a regarding line stating “Our apologies. You deserve this gift.”

And no one responded to my personal e-mail.

Five days later, I got two of the same solicitation e-mail. Two days after that I got another new e-mail.

Then things went quiet for a week.

But from March 1 through March 23, 2009:
1 mailer
1 recorded telemarketing call
9 solicitations e-mails!

I spent about $20 for the socks.

They spent whatever the cost for the mailer — say it was $0.50 and the cost for the recorded call, say that was $1.00. And then we don’t know what they pay per piece for each e-mail, but let’s say it’s just $0.02 per e-mail. Maybe they’ve sent a total of 25 e-mails since the purchase, so that’s $0.50. Plus they’re paying someone for this “genius” strategy.

All total they have invested well over $2.00 to try to cultivate a deeper relationship with me. That doesn’t sound like much. But because of the ham-handed marketing “strategy,” odds are I’ll never buy from them again. And I’ll tell my friends not to buy from them either.


1. I’m not a runner. My husband is. They are trying to cultivate a relationship with the wrong person. Or they should recognize that I will buy stuff for my husband, but that is a different approach.
2. Sending mass impersonalized e-mails every two days are not relationship-building no matter who I am. Particularly when I tried to answer their “personalized” email and nothing happened.

How does this parallel with the fundraising world?

Well, when you acquire a new donor you have to consider what it cost you to acquire them: roll up all the costs of your acquisition effort and divide by the number of new donors. That’s your cost to acquire a donor.

And just like with the $20 socks, that’s the beginning. Now you have to apply strategy to cultivate them–strategy that doesn’t involve unsolicted impersonal emails and outbound recorded telemarketing! And you’re going to want to be sure you know who the “runner” is (and get his wife’s name right!).

So, how about you, do you have any experiences with unsophisticated mass marketing? Love to hear your stories.


Kris Hoots
Partner, Oneicity

(photo credits: said&done)

Kris Hoots

Kris Hoots

3 thoughts on “what i’m worth”

  1. Donna Mansfield

    Kris – great story! The internet makes it easier to solicit people without any great output of money. And, of course, most of these folks don’t have a conscience anyway.

    I love the way you write!


  2. @Donna: thanks for your comment. The lack of conscience is exactly what we are trying to stand against. Most people will tell you what they’re interested in through how they interact with your ministry. We watch and learn (as much what not to do as to do) from these big corporations.

    @Mr. Thomas: Funny you would bring that up. I forwarded that blog post (https://www.oneicity.com/blog/why-arent-you-listening-to-me/) to the charity help desk (couldn’t find a person) along with another request to be taken off their list. Only they’re so big and important, they spammed my link to the post. They did get my request to be removed from their list. Their response was that it would take up to 3 months to take effect. Two parting thoughts: One: They sure pull their mailing lists way in advance. That’s ridiculous in this day and age. Two: I’m still counting mail pieces: I’ve received two more since that e-mail.

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