One of the things I see all the time is a reluctance to communicate too often. For example, one client told me not to send an email on Easter because it would be too intrusive, even though the email was a celebration of Easter and the start of Spring. Were they right? Surely any email asking for money is intrusive, but look at the flip side. The campaign we were running was less than two months in length. We had only emailed our target audiences twice. It has been more than 10 days since we communicated with them and it was almost near the end of the campaign. In short, this was a perfect opportunity. In this case, an opportunity lost.
Another more common example is the complaint that non-profits usually receive when someone gets too many emails. The other day, I was with a non-profit leader who commented on the fact that she had received a complaint from a person who received one too many direct mail letters from them. Were they right? Again, getting too much junk mail is a turn off. However, the non-profit in question only sent out letters twice a year, and then only to a few hundred people. Their direct mail wasn't exactly an avalanche of communication.
Where do you draw the line? The research clearly shows that the more you send --whether it be direct mail, email, phone calls -- the more you will make in donations. Volume is a factor in making money. True, there is an added risk of turning off people with too much communication, but I think this is usually over blown, and can be easily dealt with.
Many complaints about too much communications come from people who actually don't want any communications. These are the people who are bombarded by other charities. Sometimes they are email novices who can't handle even the simplest overload of spam. Either way they are in the minority. I think most complaints actually are due not to the volume of communication but because of the often stupid way they are sent. The classic example is when one part of a charity sends out a mailer at exactly the same time as another part. This can easily happen when you have a direct mail team, an events team and a communications team all operating independently from one another. Better scheduling would be able to handle this easily. Technology can help too. If you're sending email or doing Facebook make sure people know how to "opt" out. This can usually be done with a click of a button. And when people do complain, be ready for it. Expect people to call or email and be ready with an answer about why they get so much mail or email. Listen to them, and if necessary exempt them from your communications. But don't stop all communications because one or two people complain. That's throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
How much is too much? There's no magic answer. Instead of thinking about each individual communication think of the big picture. What overall goals do you want from your communication? Then match the volume of communications to meet the goals.