Friday, 6 September 2013

Notice to Charities: You can't take more money without my consent

Writing this post gave me pause for a few reasons but mainly because I am writing a post against a charity which I support and greatly admire.  I have been a supporter of Catholic Mission for years because I think they do really good work and bring aid to people in remote communities around the world where few others are willing to go.

However when I opened a letter from them last week I found something which put me off them significantly.  Last week week I opened another one of those 'please increase your support letters' which every charity seems to send to their supporters.  I am not against such letters and I occasionally do increase my support when I am able to.

What was different about this letter?

This letter didn't seem different to most of the letters that I usually get from them and the other charities I support.  Normally I would glance at it and then get back to what I was doing.  However I had a bit of spare time so I decided to read the letter.  On the second page it informed me that they were increasing my monthly donation by 10% and if I didn't want it increased I should contact them...

They were increasing my donation by a significant amount and I had to opt out of the increase.  This is not how charity and donations or any other form of product work.  You cant tell me that I'm increasing the amount I'm going to give.

Why was I so angry at it?

I was angry at this tactic for several reasons:

  1. The increase, although clearly stated, was not disclosed until the second page
    • I'm guessing most people that would have received this letter would have missed it unless they had some time to spare like me
    • If you're going to increase a persons donation and require them to opt out then this should be up front - the first thing the person reads
    • This is actually the only reason I am writing this post - because some people may have missed it and you should be informed
  2. By requiring people to opt out of the increase you make them feel guilty for not giving more
    • In many ways I am a realist - I know that the whole charitable industry works on guilt.  Charities get more money by showing starving kids on television because we feel guilty for not doing more in the world so we donate to make other people's lives better...there is nothing wrong with this
    • However this guilt should cause people to want to give.  Use it to cause people to increase their donations.  Don't make them feel bad about having to call up and say they can't or don't want to give any more
  3. Why didn't you just ask?
    • By not asking you're going to make your regular supporters (like me) angry with you
    • I was actually going to increase my donation by more than the 10% when I read the letter but when I saw you were increasing my donation not only did you not get the increased contribution you made me angry with you
    • The Fred Hollows Foundation (which I also support) calls me about once a year to increase my donation and I almost always say yes - perhaps you could do the same and just ask me?
This combination of guilt and assumption that their supporters want to give more to their work rather than the work that other good charities do was especially annoying.  

If Catholic Mission wasn't a charity I really liked...I would cut them in an instant

If Catholic Mission was an ordinary business, trust me when I say that I would stop dealing with them and move my business elsewhere.  Further I would have written a much harsher post than this.  I recognise that they do extremely good work and are a charity I wish to support now and going forward so I can't and wont be reducing my donations...this contributed to my annoyance at this letter.

For all those who donate to Catholic Mission - know that your donations are going up by 10% and you can opt out but you need to call them.  They do really good work though so even if you are annoyed at them, perhaps express your displeasure but don't disadvantage the people who they help every day.

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