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…