Thanks to fellow blogger Amy for the inspiration for today’s post. I too feel “over-pinked”. Frankly, I’m not just over the pink ribbons — I feel barraged by unceasing requests for money for good causes.
Not only are nonprofits allowed to call you if you are registered for the national “Do Not Call List” — but also doesn’t it seem every day the mail has at least one pitch for your time, attention, and money? I have to pay to have my recycling picked up — and that is where every unsolicited request that is delivered to me goes.
What has pushed me over the top though, is it seems every store I visit has their clerks asking each customer: “Do you want to give money to our cause?”Frankly I feel sorry for the clerks who are required by their company to solicit! When did it become routine for a business to be in the business of panhandling? I figured I can’t be the only person who feels this way, so I did a quick internet search on the topic. I only found one relatively recent discussion (see below) but in 2008 and 2009 there were a number of “rants” on this subject. None of them really were worthy of links in this post, but I did learn something from a 2009 NPR story — checkout donation requests can be a mixed blessing for worthy causes. The charitable organization loses the ability to track their donors in a sector where “spending” a.k.a “giving” is very repetitive.
Ken Stern, a former CEO of National Public Radio writes “Instead of doing research, Americans give out of habit: Almost 80 percent of all gifts are labeled as “100 percent loyal,” meaning most people give to the same familiar brands year after year.” In addition, the first time someone gives is the most difficult “ask” because of the repetitive nature of giving. The nonprofit is giving up the conversion of a “no” to a “yes”.
I can understand the upside to a nonprofit though — they use cost-free existing infrastructure and personnel to make “the asks” and, if partnering with large nationwide or regional organizations, small donations can quickly add up. Perhaps, too, individuals like the anonymity of giving small amounts this way, and understand that they will not have further solicitation from the nonprofit.
I wonder how “embedded giving” works in terms of follow up. You’ve seen embedded giving: companies actually program the PIN pads at their checkout lanes to prompt customers to add on a dollar for charity. The company actually gets (tax and PR) credit for the donations. But, in theory, they could track which of their customers donate and give that information to the nonprofit.
So the only relevant and “non-rant” discussion I found on this subject was from a Minnesota Blog Cabin post from April 2014. In Five Reasons it’s Okay to Just Say “No” to Checkout Charities, Joe Loveland makes a good case for why we actually should say no to checkout requests for cash donations. One of them is being an educated charitable giver.
As someone who has chaired a capital campaign for a nonprofit and who also believes in charitable giving, I wonder if the donor fatigue caused by constant cash register requests won’t — in the long run at least — hurt third sector revenue. I’m so cranky about this, it may for me! Something to think about.
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