Trust and Charity


The trust and patience of consumers is a garden to be tended not a forest to be clear cut. [Bruce Philp; Canadian Business, December 2014]

I hate door to door marketers. I hate them so much that if the Queen of England herself were to knock on my door unexpectedly I would simply ignore her. My home is my sanctuary and any attempt to breach its fortifications unannounced will be defended against in the most passive-aggressive manner possible. I have been known to walk past the window, make eye contact with a door to door marketer and keep going without so much as a nod. The message I’m sending should be loud and clear; I don’t know you, you are not welcome here, go away!

Or as my friend’s “welcome” mat says;

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I reserve my worst stink-eye for the utility companies that want me to sign up for flat rate natural gas, I once made the mistake of allowing one into my home and became so discussed with his aggressive tactics that I had to literally throw him out. But charities aren’t much better and over the last few years they’ve been getting worse.

Don’t get me wrong, I like charity. I am a huge proponent of philanthropy both for myself and for my clients. There is no better use of excess wealth than to give it away to a worthy cause. You can’t take it with you and if you don’t make provision for it while you are living the government is going to decide for you what is done with your money so you may as well give it to a worthy cause while you can. But recent statistics have shown that even with the economy in recovery mode Canadians charitable giving is down.  Why? I think it has a lot to do with the fact that most charities have begun to break the rules of etiquette and head down a slippery slope toward harassment.

It’s not just the door to door marketers who are to blame. When I worked in Toronto I would have to walk through a busy shopping district on my way to and from the train station every day. This time of year there were days when it felt like I was literally running the gamut in an attempt to avoid being harassed by aggressive clip board wielding students attempting to get me to sponsor a child in the developing world or subscribe to an over-priced magazine about global warming.

Bruce Philp, a brand strategy consultant and columnist for Canadian Business Magazine recently stated that it is these tactics that are training us that compassion is the road to marketing hell and I tend to agree. Last year I contributed (for me) a significant amount of money to a few local charities. As a result of my philanthropy my contact information was sold to what seems like every other charity in the country. I have received more appeals for help than I thought possible, each with their own heart wrenching story of need accompanied in most cases by a package full of greeting cards, address labels and in a few cases a cheap pen. One even sends me a nickel every few months with a cheeky appeal along the lines of “I we had a nickel…” Here’s a thought – if you had kept this one you wouldn’t need me to send you another one!

I realize I’m starting to rant here and I don’t want to do that so here’s the point. As I stated above I like charity, I even consider myself somewhat of an amateur philanthropist. But I am not going to change my pattern of giving because you sent me a cheap pen with which to write a cheque. I give to causes that I know, understand, agree with and can confidently say are doing good work. No cheap pen, address label or aggressive student on my doorstep is going to change that. In fact if an organization that I currently support were to change their tactics and start to pressure me into greater giving in this way they would be more likely to lose my support altogether than gain more.

With charitable giving on a downward trend I am sure I am not alone in this sentiment and the marketing departments at these charities would to well to recognize what they are actually doing. As Philp says “The job of marketing isn’t just to make this year’s numbers but to ensure charities can come back next year and the year after that.”

Charitable giving is a deeply personal and relational activity. Don’t treat your donors like a transactional customer, treat us like partners for the cause and never, EVER, sell our contact information to the highest bidder. Merry Christmas and please give to those in need.

For more on The Meekonomics Project philanthropic giving programs and consulting work for non-profits and charities write to themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com

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