In September, I sent an email to library staff members with the following subject line: Thank you but…no more donations.
It wasn’t more than a few minutes and someone said to me, “Wow, the fundraising is over?”
What? “Where in the world did you get that idea?”
“From your email,” was the reply. “I haven’t had a chance to read it yet but your subject line indicated we don’t need any more donations.”
Oh my! That’s not what I meant to say at all!
Here we are in the middle of a capital campaign, trying to raise a large amount of money for our library expansion and renovation project and I was sending an email with the headline announcing we didn’t want any more donations. What in the world was I thinking?
Well, I wasn’t thinking of course.
We DO want donations. We need donations. We can’t do this project without donations.
This was a glaring example of the need to write a better headline. (It’s also an example of the need to read beyond the headlines if there ever was one.) Staff needed to read the entire email. In the body of the email I was alerting them to the fact that we need to officially stop taking gifts of books and magazines. People have always been very generous and regularly bring us bags and boxes full of books, DVDs, videos, music CDs, and magazines. Occasionally we put items in our library’s collection; usually our Friends of the Library takes the items and sells them in our book sales. Either way the library benefits. We’ve always greatly appreciated the donations.
However, we are now in the position of cleaning house in preparation for our building project. We cannot pay to move and store used books so we must make sure they are all out of the facility before Spring. We will be having increasingly aggressively priced book sales leading up to our move. But we do need to call a moratorium on accepting additional materials at this time so we can cope with what we have. At this time we need to say thank you, but no thank you, to donations of physical items. So let me be clear. The moratorium is on the donations of materials. We don’t have a similar problem with monetary donations. The Fort Atkinson Community Foundation has plenty of storage capacity for donations to our library fund! (Did you ever notice how little space money actually requires?)
Anyway, that’s what I meant to say.
I guess it’s good that I had such a wildly inappropriate subject line for my staff email. It taught me to pay more attention when writing future communications. Notice the headline of this post has been more carefully crafted; it’s nice and vague.
In life, often times we aren’t lucky enough to get a do-over. The pink pearl eraser simply doesn’t fix it. In that case, what you can do is analyze just where you went wrong. That way you can make a different mistake next time!