Here’s some route one, Dorothy Donor fundraising

I recently spent some time in a part of East Anglia where a lot of elderly people live, and through the letterbox popped a piece of cold, unaddressed direct mail from the British Red Cross, a charity I admire a lot and have donated to at times of disaster. I was there at about the same time last year, when a similar envelope arrived, so this mail shot may be a hardy annual for that postcode.

Last year, the envelope contained a letter about the Red Cross’s work, a donation form, a couple of greetings cards with envelopes, a bookmark and a pen.  The cards and bookmark were adorned with a picture of a red rose – the Humanity Rose, specially bred to mark the 125th birthday of the British Red Cross and named to honour its life-saving work.

This year the contents were the same, but with the addition of a couple of coasters – the sort you use to protect your french polish from your mug of tea – also decorated with the Humanity Rose. The letter from the director of fundraising says: “I’ve enclosed some cards and gifts as a thank you and a valuable reminder of the life-saving work you are supporting.”

The Institute of Fundraising’s code of practice on direct mail says: “Fundraising organisations ought to be able to demonstrate that the purpose of the enclosure was to enhance the message and/or the emotional engagement in the cause and not to generate a donation primarily because of financial guilt or to cause embarrassment. In judging this, emphasis will be given to the perception of the recipient.”

Maybe I’m insensitive, but the perception of this recipient is that I can’t really see how pens, coasters and cards, even adorned with the Humanity Rose, enhance the message or emotional engagement. Isn’t it just a piece of old-fashioned, unreconstructed, route one, Dorothy Donor fundraising? And the odds are it’ll drop through the same letterbox next year, and the year after that…

2 Responses to “Here’s some route one, Dorothy Donor fundraising”

  1. Mark Atkinson

    I think you make a valid point with regards to the IoF code of practice in this instance. On a personal level, I struggle as to how the majority of trinkets that get sent out really enhance the message or emotional engagement. What I suspect happens is that charities sometimes lack creativity when it comes to communicating with their existing low level donors. They already know by virtue of the £2/3/5 per month they are getting that the donor has an affinity with their cause so they become complacent and forget about the need for people to also feel a sense of compulsion ie to give to a cause where they feel there is a genuine requirement to “act NOW”. No doubt the mailing in question will still have performed moderately well but I wonder whether if a longitudinal study was ever undertaken of complacent DM it would reveal substantial attrition in the donor base over a 10 / 15 / 20 yr period and a marked reduction in legacies. To be honest, I hope it would as it would make charities think harder.

    Mark Atkinson, VCSchange

  2. Jacinta Ashworth

    Somehow I receive these having ‘crept onto’ their mailing list, without even realising it- no doubt because I support other charities in the sector and forgot to tick a box sometime. They do irritate me immensely and have been a disincentive to donate. The cards end up in my emergency birthday card selection, the bookmark has been used, as has the coaster but as yet, haven’t triggered donating. Red Cross are missing the mark in sending these to me, as a 41 year old (who just happens to be a market researcher to the charity sector). If this is Dorothy Donor I don’t want it, thank you. Red Cross need to look “somewhere over the rainbow” and step into the 21st century. They should take a look at the KIVA website – now that I do like. …


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