If you’re an American, you may have missed the $hitstorm that erupted in the UK recently over the suicide of a 92-year old poppy seller. It was alleged that incessant demands for money from charities drove her to take her own life.
Whether or not oversolicitation killed poor Olive Cooke, the resulting brouhaha has laid bare one of those realities we often deny – that the line between direct response fundraising and panhandling can get murky.
When a fundraising scandal erupts, we tend to deflect the issue by pointing out the “few bad apples,” which do indeed exist. But the DCCC is not a bad apple when it sends an email barrage of escalating hysteria at the end of each fundraising quarter. The LCV is not a bad apple when it sends a faux survey in order to get email subscribers to visit the donate page.
The problem is not that manipulative tactics don’t work. The problem is that they do.
That means organization leaders need to make a choice whether or not to reach into the pressure sales bag of tricks, not based on whether it will bring in more money, but on whether it’s the right thing to do.