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My 5 Charity Turn Offs

While I appreciate they may duplicate other blog entries, here are the 5 major turn offs for me in how charities choose to communicate in interesting or creating empathy with donors:

1. Gifts to prick your conscience – Whether it is coins sellotaped to the letter; packets of salt or seeds (if the stuff is that valuable to poor people in Africa why are they sending it by post to me in the UK?) or address labels (refer also item 3. – Raffles), they fail completely to tell me anything, seem wasted expense and do not motivate me to donate. Address labels bearing your name and address are an interesting phenomenon since they vary between being for suggested use on the accompanying raffle tickets enclosed (NDCS); a suggestion you may want to pay via “donations” for this free gift; or simply a “thank you”. Whatever the intent all I honestly do is use them as and when I see fit – interestingly very few state which charity they relate to on the actual label (Diabetes UK being the most recent example) and so lose the opportunity to promote their brand when the label is used – congratulations to the Alzheimer’s Society for a rare exception who use their name plus their pictorial symbol of ‘Forget-me-not” flowers and state they want you to use them to spread awareness of their work.

2. Pointless Opinion Polls (and the dreaded free labelled biro) – The layout and questions of such “polls” are rarely worth the effort – the questions vary between telling you how little you know about the purpose of the charity or the specific cause they are about or seem a very unsubtle way to test if you will donate more or want to be contacted to be involved even more. I have yet to be moved to complete one and return it – I simply recycle it and place the biro with other charity biros in the container in my kitchen for family writing instruments!

3. Raffle tickets – These seem to be a hangover from my childhood when charities (especially local churches and Rotary Clubs) used them to raise funds. I fear that in the days of 21st century super lotteries, receiving two book of tickets (never one, always two in my case anyway!) where the prizes on offer are often pretty meagre and the hassle of filing in several ticket stubs and then returning in the post with a cheque is just expecting too much I fear. All that seems to have happened anew to entice you is to include address labels so you do not have to complete each of the stubs with a pen! Given no intent to pay for the tickets, I must admit I simply use these labels on letters and parcels as I need (refer 1. re. gifts). Yes, I fear I will still carry on with the National Lottery and if I ever hit the big one, I would hope that I will be moved to share part of my largesse with a number of charities.

4. Badly presented letters – These range in type and I accept may just be very personal turn offs but letters that start “Dear Friend” usually trigger the paper recycling button (I guess I should be glad that none address me as “comrade”!); letters that tell you how much they believe you should contribute (I know there is a psychology that states if you ask for less you will actually get less but since we are talking about the exercise of personal altruism, I do not find myself reacting that way I must admit); and finally letters that still look as though they are church parish newsletters, many of the very worthwhile military related charities being especially guilty in this area. While per my separate blog entry I question the ongoing value of posted charity magazines, if my assumptions are correct such letters will in turn need to change dramatically as they move into the internet age of emails to supporters.

5. Inappropriately timed letters – Know the feeling? You have just made a one off donation to a prior special appeal or increased your periodic covenant/gift aid because it is that time of year, and what do you get in the next two – four weeks invariably off that same charity? Yes, you guessed it, a general appeal letter asking for you to consider if you can donate more! Yes, I accept it is just plain bad timing (at least in giving the relevant charity the benefit of the doubt I sincerely hope it is!) but more than once I have found myself wondering why the heading of the letter does not include the strapline “Come on, we know you can donate more”. Fortunately to date this has never led me to strike a charity off from further donations, but in being honest there have been a few close calls I fear!

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