About 15 years ago, a friend lent me a book, I believe the title was “Holy Terror” and I do not recall the author. I expected to read a book about the history of religious conflict. It turned out to be a book about marketing religious organizations.
From what I recall, the book chronicled the rise of the Moral Majority in USA political life. Specifically, it credited the leaders of that organization with developing a computer program to organize the mailing list, keep interested people informed of the group’s activities and ideas, and most importantly solicit (more) donations. Now, just about every organization from the National Parks to niche political PAC’s use versions of this technology. Daily, we receive newsletters, organization magazines, and requests for donations.
While I hold similar views to many charitable organizations, a couple of statistics that I have come across of the years beg questions about how these systems raise funds. First, there is the 1% rule. If you send out 1,000,000 requests for funds and 1% of the receivers respond you have 10,000 responses. If each sends only $25, you have made a quarter of a million dollars, minus the expense of sending out the mailing. I once thought of starting “The WV Wildlife Sanctuary Trust” to see if sending out requests to let wild animals live on my property would fill up the bank account…. okay, just kidding.
The next motivation that I came across for fund raising was to generate “membership”, not funds themselves. For all the mailings that I receive from the same organizations throughout the year, I wondered how my contribution went anywhere except to ask me for more money. The statistic that I came across was that the funds that individuals send is a small fraction of the total funds that most groups raise each year. The majority comes from government agencies and foundations… $50 from me, $50M from the Dept. of ???. The way that the organizations have clout to request millions of dollars is to have membership. Walk up to the Global Bucks Bank with an idea for funding water projects in undeveloped countries, carrying 100,000, half a million, or several million members, and you are likely to get different levels of funding. In exchange, the organization writes a nice piece about the Global Bucks Bank in their newsletter that goes out to 100K, 500K, or M’s of folks homes. Nice PR.
Just the other day, I heard a news report that charitable receipts were down this year. The issue was less that individuals were giving less, but that the contract companies which send out the letters, and make the phone calls were charging more. Thirty-seven cents of the dollar raised by the cold-call companies was passed along to the group. Yes, 37 cents. Thus, if I sent in $50, $18.50 went to the group and $31.50 went to the soliciting agency. Talk about Holy Terror!
For some years, I have thought about collecting and counting how many solicitations I receive from what groups. A blog is an easy way to pass on this information. I shall keep a tally near my place at the table. Each evening, I will sort out the “junk mail”, noting what groups send requests for money. At the end of the month, I will take the tally and post it. Skim through the list to contemplate how charitable our society has become.