earlier this year, I went off on a bit of a rant about how I was being spammed by the Red Cross. A worthy charity, no question, but every new piece of correspondence they had with me only served to make me less likely to donate to them. That seemed ridiculous, and I have been meaning to tell them so ever since I wrote that post.
I finally got around to it yesterday:
To whom it may concern.
I have been donating to your charity, in various different ways, for several years now. I believe that you do some amazing, worthwhile work that provides help to the people across the world who need it most. It is because of the high regard that I hold your charity in, that I feel I need to give you some feedback about some of the communications I have been receiving from you recently.
I understand that in the current economic climate, where money is tight for many people, it is getting harder and harder for charities like yourselves to raise the money they need to do their work. There are hundreds of charities competing for our attention, and there is a part of me that understands why you feel you need to adopt more and more aggressive tactics to keep the donations coming in. Over the last six months or so, it has got to the point where every contact I have with you is actually making me LESS likely to donate to you. I’ll give you two examples:
1) I received a phone call soliciting money from me – as a known donor – to help with the relief effort after the recent Pakistani floods. I tend to give money online, and I didn’t appreciate the phone call, but the caller was aggressive and would not take no for an answer. They wanted to know HOW I’d donated elsewhere, and did I not realise how much money they needed as people were dying. I understand this, but I do not like being harangued in my own home, especially when I already give money and did not solicit the call. The caller tried to convince me to commit to a direct debit. Surely I could afford a couple of pounds a month? Perhaps I could, but why does no not mean no? At the end of the call, the caller then told me how much their fundraising target for the red cross was, and how much of that his agency would be keeping. I don’t remember the figures, and I’m sure it’s all standard, but it seemed like an awfully large slice of my donation dollar, especially when they did you no favours at all as representatives.
2) I regularly receive mailings from you. These often take the form of big, fat envelopes containing some sort of item: a pen, badges, tea bags…. The idea is, of course, to get me to donate more money to you. A letter I can understand – although actually I don’t like receiving them and never donate as a result of them, but why send me all the other stuff? How much more money does that cost you to send me two (actually horrible!) teabags? Maybe it’s only a couple of pence, but it looks awful. Better no post at all – especially as I’m an online donor.
I hate the hard sell. You are a good charity doing important work, but I have started to dread contact with you and now don’t even bother opening the mailings.
I thought you might like to know how I felt.
I submitted that via their website, fairly convinced that I was going to get a response, and genuinely interested to hear what they had to say. I didn't have to wait long.
Thank you for your email and your valued feedback to our recent appeals. Please accept our apologies for any annoyance caused.
As a charity we have a responsibility to raise as much money as possible to continue our life saving work. However we will always closely monitor each of our fundraising appeals to ensure that they are cost effective and raising the levels of income that we would expect. Presently we are very proud to say that for every £1 spent on fundraising we raise £4.50 in return.
With regards to our telephone fundraising, our fundraisers are expected to follow our code of conduct at all times, and we will always log and follow up specific complaints, especially if the fundraiser has used an aggressive tone or generally misrepresented the British Red Cross.
In our letters of appeal we have found that enclosing small inexpensive gifts increases response rates, often by around 26% which as we are sure you can appreciate it is a significant amount. Our mail packs on average cost around 80p and this includes the cost of postage.
Of course we do appreciate that not all of our supporters like to be approached in the same way, and it is never our intention to upset or annoy our supporters. Therefore when we are made aware of a supporters preference we will be sure to update our records to indicate this preference.
I will be more than happy to amend your records to show that you do not wish to be contacted, or perhaps if you prefer only by email in the future? To do so please provide me with either a reference number or your full address and postcode.
If you have any further questions please do not hesitate to let us know and we will be happy to help. Once again please accept our apologies.
So. A fulsome response. It's interesting that every pound spent on fundraising raises £4.50. That's great, as long as you subscribe to the view that the ends justify the means.... and as long as you believe that the return of these pressure sell tactics will be at least as good for the foreseeable future as it clearly is in the short-term. If I'm typical of the type of person who donates to charities on a fairly regular basis, then surely it's flawed: I'm now much less likely to donate to the Red Cross in the future, and will certainly never donate to ANY charity that tries the hard sell on me. By losing me (and people like me), how much have they lost in the longer term?
It's also interesting that mailings with small gifts, like pens or teabags, cost about 80p each (including postage) but increase the response rate by about 26%. Presumably, although the email doesn't specify, that means donations. It's hard to not to agree that this seems like a pretty good return on investment, although of course the counter-argument is that if every mailing cost 40p (or even nothing, if they sent me emails instead) instead of 80p, then they would have saved money that could perhaps be better used elsewhere.
Still, on the whole I'm pleased: I'm pleased that I finally took the trouble to tell them what was on my mind (triggered, it must be said, by another pack of junk mail from them this week); I'm also pleased that they responded so quickly and with such a full and informative personal response (with an actual person to reply to). They've gone back up in my estimation.
Emails only, please.