Fundraising Clutter

14 Comments

I want to preface this post by saying that I have nothing against the concept of fundraising.  Many charities receive little or no regular funding so donations are essential for them to be able to carry out the wonderful support and services which they provide.  It is also helps to raise awareness of issues such as medical conditions of which many people have limited knowledge.

I am bothered by the amount of stuff generated by fundraising for good causes.  The past 25 years has seen exponential growth in this type of fundraising.  Almost every week there is some designated ‘day’.  We have pink ribbon, white ribbon, blue ribbon, red nose and daffodil days to name but a few.

There are several issues around this whole concept that bother me:

The amount of unnecessary stuff which is generated in the name of merchandising.  These include ribbons, lapel pins, pens, medallions, mugs, teddy bears, silicone wristbands, keyrings, bandanas, fake flowers and caps.  This is not an exhaustive list but it gives you an idea of the sort of stuff that has become part of the push for the donation dollar.

This stuff is:

Mostly made in overseas sweatshops and imported

Has to be purchased initially by the charity which reduces the money available for use in provision of services and support

Is rarely of any real use to the purchaser

Takes up space, gathers dust and eventually is consigned to landfill

Possibly the earliest proponents of giving away something in exchange for a donation was red poppies on Armistice Day.  I believe they used to be handmade using red crepe paper but then progressed to mass produced.  Now there is a choice of poppy themed merchandise.

The next forays into a designated ‘day’ that I am aware of were ‘Daffodil Day’ (Cancer Fund)  and ‘Red Nose Day’ (SIDS and Kids)which began in 1986 and 1988 respectively.  They both began with a single product and quickly expanded into a range of merchandise.

Since when did the need to buy stuff rather than simply make a donation become the accepted norm?  Do people feel that they need to ‘advertise’ their support?  Or is it simply designed to raise awareness rather than funds?  Whatever the reason I disagree with the waste that is generated by the selling of merchandise on these special ‘days’.

My strategy to avoid the stuff is simply to select those charities that I wish to support and make a regular donation directly from my pay or at at time of my choosing.  On the rare occasions that I make a donation on a specific ‘day’ I give money with the express wish that I do not want any merchandise.  This is usually met with a strange look or comment but I simply say, “No thanks” and leave.

How do you feel about this issue?

Remember, this is not against individual organisations but rather the mass marketing of ‘stuff’ in the name of fundraising.

14 thoughts on “Fundraising Clutter

  1. I totally agree, and have my own four or five charities that I support regularly: Anglicare for the work they do with local families in need; Smith Family for their assistance with educational needs of disadvantaged Australian children; JDRF which is a recent cause of mine because my youngest Granddaughter has type 1 diabetes; CARE because I want to help overseas where I can and our local CFA for the thankless work they do in helping the local community. I also give to my grandchildren’s schools and kinder etc, in the form of buying raffle tickets and attending school fetes etc, and support our local charity shops by donating goods and occasionally buying something from them.

    I do like your idea of donating without taking the merchandise. I might do that on Remembrance Day as I have a collection of poppies, yet each year buy another one in honour of my father-in-law who served in the war and whose birthday is on November 11th.

  2. Totally agree Yvonne..if it’s not practical I am not interested. Happy to buy raffle tickets for things I use and have bought but not taken the merchandise. Was stunned recently when offering a donation to be told it needed to be at least $10! It was to support a disabled sporting team and he wasn’t prepared to just have my smaller donation!!

  3. I absolutely agree. In fact, I think that the recession has had a positive effect on this — my organization’s “swag” budget has been severly cut. I don’t think we need branded snuggies to make our resources known.

    IN the heathcare community in the US it’s now illegal for pharmaceutical companies to give out branded ‘gifts’, even pens. It’s a win for ethics in medicine, and ethics in manufacturing.

    • It is good to see a positive effect from the recession – I expect positives are a bit hard to find.

      My job is in healthcare and over a number of years we have seen a much-needed tightening of the guidelines around gifts and branding. In my opinion a lot more needs to be done, though.

  4. I agree as well. I usually avoid the mass produced items and simply make donations to charities of my own choosing throughout the year. Sometimes it coincides with an “event” day but I just have a list to work from. The other problem I have is the amount of mail this generates. I have tried writing back to the charities and asking them to take me off their list but from some organisations I would receive three or four letters requesting larger amounts each time or with heartbreaker letters describing a families need. How can you simply donate, receive your receipt for tax and have it stop there.

    • If I knew how to stop the charity mail I would be a millionaire! Unfortunately the ongoing mail has actually made me re-think some of the charities I support.

  5. I also agree and have learned from experience that some seemingly worthy charities are not what I thought. I am happy to support Legacy and those art unions that sell houses for the RSL. A bit wasteful but both my parents were injured servicemen and they appreciated the support given so freely. But some animal welfare charities spend my entire donation on letters and free gifts. Nothing seems to go to the animal care. I loathe and detest head shaving, walking and begging for money, and car rallies which fleece the rural communities already in hard times. I refuse to buy teddy bears, ribbons, pens, and fake flowers for charity and do not get me started on those chocolates. What do I support? Outright donations when I know the cause, raffles, sausage sizzles, and community concerts.

    • Thanks for your insight, Louise. There are so many things to consider if you want value for your donation dollar. Well done on sorting out your priorities.

  6. We do not give to “cold call” charities.
    We support the “Asbestos sufferers ” group in our nearest town by buying the produce they make and giving donations. (my husband has Asbestosis)
    We support the Cancer people by donating ( coins in donation box) when we use their facilities in Adelaide ( when we go down for my husbands treatment/ appointment’s)
    We give extra to Opp Shops/ Charity Shops when we visit (especially if they are nice to us and not rude or abrupt with us when we go there) We often go to the smaller community shops when travelling and have a couple in “local” towns who keep pre-loved cook books for me.
    We are full pensioners so receive no other money so must be careful with our spending.

    • The cancer charities are obviously close to your heart and it is great that you are able to support the work they do. I like the fact that you have a rapport with some of the smaller op shops.

      Cold callers get nothing except a polite, “I am not interested” and hang up from me. They usually do not even get to say what it is about. As soon as I realise that the caller is not personally known to me I terminate the call.

  7. I agree too – I don’t need or want any of the ‘cheap’ useless merchandise on offer for purchase – instead I donate the amount I designate to my chosen charities – like others some have specified there is a minimum amount, one demanding $60 by a certain date – that didn’t happen, I can tell you. We donate cash to certain organisations, clothing and items in good condition to charity shops, and we donate blood every twelve weeks to the Red Cross Blood Bank. As pensioners, we feel we do all we can in this way – but I do object to the money spent on all these glossy magazines and advertising sent through the mail from the charities – I too have requested it stop but to no avail. Such a waste.

    • Pam
      I agree – it is awful to witness the waste spent on glossy brochures when we know it could be better utilised.
      Donating blood is impossible to place a value on but well done on making the effort.

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