UPDATE [March 19, 2012]: If you’ve arrived at this page because you received a solicitation for charity from St. Joseph’s Indian School and you are investigating whether the school deserves your support, then please see the comment below from David Fitzpatrick, a CNN investigative producer who is researching a story about St. Joseph’s and their fundraising vendor, Quadriga arts. He would like to hear from you, especially if you have a mailing from St. Joseph’s which you haven’t yet discarded. You can email him here.
Now, back to the original blog posting…
You’ve all gotten them, right? An envelope, or sometimes even a box, from some alleged charity you’ve never heard of before. You open it up and discover personalized mailing labels, greeting cards, a notepad, a tree ornament, a cheap electronic doodad, a coin, or whatever, along with a plea to send a donation.
The strategy the charity is employing is twofold: some confused old people and idiots will think they’re required to send a donation in exchange for the junk, and some others will feel compelled to send a donation because they would otherwise feel guilty about accepting something for nothing from a charity.
I call these “guilt mailings.”
(Interestingly, the UK’s Institute of Fundraising says they’re a no-no (page 8): “Fundraising organisations OUGHT to be able to demonstrate that the purpose of the enclosure was to enhance the message and/or the emotional engagement in the cause and not to generate a donation primarily because of financial guilt or to cause embarrassment.”)
I know what the senders of these mailings are trying to do, and I know it’s slimy, so I’m completely immune to their efforts to generate guilt. Not only that, but rather than prompting me to donate, guilt mailings tend to have the opposite effect — I tend to put any charity which uses them onto my “do not donate” list for good. If the freebie is useful, I go ahead and use it without any qualms at all. I’m heartless about it… when they send reply envelopes with stamps on them, I cut off the stamps and use them to send my own letters, just on principle.