Wednesday, 24 February 2016

How low can you go?

I support a number of charities, but like many people I have been appalled by the way that some of these organisations have not realised that in encouraging people to do the decent thing and help others, they also need to treat their donors decently, rather than considering them idiots to be manipulated and squeezed out of every last drop of cash. It's a very unpleasant case of 'the end justifies the means' - and as usual, this is a motto that doesn't hold up well to scrutiny.

The reason I bring this up is I've just come across the most cynical and unpleasant attempt to manipulate I've ever seen. I thought certain charities that send unrequested gifts like pens and mats in the hope of guilt tripping the recipient into paying were bad. But this is a new low.

Along with an apparent handwritten Post-it note - always a sign of dubious marketing - the letter from this charity, World Villages for Children had attached to it 12p. Twelve pence as cash. Actual money. They sent potential donors money. Why would they possibly do this? The letter from the charity explains that the author, Sister Michaela - the director of the charity, is sending me this 12p because she is desperate. What she wants me to do is send the 12p back to her, along with a cheque for at least £10 to help starving children in Guatemala. (If I do, apparently she will send me a bag containing six little 'worry dolls'.)

This is not a reason for sending 12p to me. There is only one possible reason - it is a marketing ploy. We all get junk mail that goes straight in the bin. But it is very hard to throw cash away. Especially cash that has been given to you by a charity. And for that matter, it feels evil just to put it in your pocket. Not to respond makes you feel guilty. It is top class manipulation.

Unfortunately, I don't like being manipulated. It's why I wouldn't watch the likes of the The X Factor or Britain's Got Talent, with their endless audience manipulation tricks. And it's why I'm not going to do what's intended of me here. I won't be sending that 12p back to them - I will be putting it in the collecting box of a charity that I support, such as the British Heart Foundation or The Children's Society.

I don't like to be repetitive, but I can't think of another adjective than cynical that so well describes this type of marketing.

*UPDATE* - Thanks to David Buick for pointing out that this approach has been going on for at least 10 years from this discussion.

Please note, if you comment, do not make any remarks suggesting that this charity's mailing is illegal or attempting to do anything illegal, as such comments would have to be removed as they would make this blog post liable to a takedown order, a mechanism often employed by those using this kind of marketing (see this post for details). The charity's methods are legal. But they are not acceptable.

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