Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Good cause, bad execution

I got a fat package in the mail from a religious group that runs a school on one of the big Indian reservations.  Unpacked it to find:

three greeting cards with envelopes

a calendar, a sheet of stickers and a certificate of appreciation with my name

a dreamcatcher

two cute plastic tote bags and a ballpoint pen

And of course a fundraising plea -- would I please give them $25 to help them serve the children.

You have to wonder, of course, how much it cost them to buy and package and mail all this stuff.  Not to mention how much it cost to hire the marketing genius who thought up this campaign. I'm sure it's designed to make me feel guilty -- look at all this great swag I've scored, I have to pay them back.  But for me it has the opposite effect -- if money is so scarce, why don't you spend it on the children instead of sending me plastic tote bags?  What kind of weird, stupid decision-making is going on at this institution?  Why would I support a charity with such cynical and wasteful ideas?

Direct mail is one of the most easily monitored and evaluated forms of marketing ever invented; you know exactly how many of Letter A you sent out, and exactly how much money you got in return.  If a direct mail pitch doesn't work, you rewrite the letter and try another pitch.  So there are obviously enough suckers out there who are responding to the tote bags and dreamcatchers to make them keep doing it.  But I wonder how much will go to keep the perpetual motion direct mail machine in motion and how much to the Indian school.

Oh well, the two-year-old will love the tote bags, and maybe the ballpoint pen will write OK.  The rest goes straight in the trash.


  1. Oh Gee...My sis is 88 and used to get a ton of this kind of mail. We have had to monitor her mail or she will send not $25, but $100 to each of them. And they multiply. These places sell their Sucker List to others. If there is a self addressed stamped return envelope I would return it with DECEASED across the form meant to be returned with a donation. About 5 years ago, CNN posted a list of the top 100 non profits determined by how much of their donations actually went where they said it did. That was a shocker. Most of them were sending her donation requests. I advised her to keep her donations to local organizations that we know are legit and transparent. Do you know that the Salvation Army continually sends her request to donate her home to them and maintain a Life Trust in it??? There are so many elderly people that no longer make sound financial decisions.
    xx, Carol

  2. My mother received one of these, from Foot & mouth painting artists. There was no plastic in it, & each piece of stationery mentioned the particular F/MPA who made the original art. I did use all of it. I also sent a decent donation by online transfer. "Mail" is almost extinct in India, including junk mail. I don't even remember when I saw the last mail-marketing envelope ... perhaps in 2006 from Readers' Digest. In fact, I felt bad for FMPA, the things that they sent - greeting cards, gift tags & book marks - are obsolete in India now - all greetings are digital, so is all entertainment, books are forgotten. 99% of their envelopes must have summarily gone to dustbins. While these were art - someone's art, at least.
    I find it much more irritating how Helpage India conducts. Young women come down straight to office, give 3 choices of donation, personally corner us, won't accept either cash or online transfer, we HAVE to write a cheque, they often come in surreptitiously as customers ... often we don't even receive the tax exemption email.
    It is true, we should actively seek to support LOCAL charities.

  3. I used to think the 'guilt' factor was because I was raised Catholic! Glad to see this effects others the same way! Hate the guilt!!!

  4. My Dad was getting sooo many of these. I think the last year he was handling his mail, he ended up with a 3-4 inch stack of calendars in one year. I sent a huge amount of cards, pens, notepads, bags, etc to thrift when we cleaned out the house. I also started sending back the forms (prepaid envelopes only) with "remove from list" or "deceased" which seems to have cut the requests by about 90%. I still get some such mailings even though he's been gone for about 1 1/2 years -I put all the stuff without his name on the bag to give to thrift, same with things sent to me. I also pulled nickels, and dollar bills from some of those mailings. Most of these schemes are actually raising money to line the fundraiser companies pockets.

    Is it bad that I *slightly sort of* miss the political request that included a dollar bill?