The issue has been brought into sharp focus in the UK by an elderly lady who recently killed herself. Relatives say she was increasingly troubled by piles of charity begging letters. Exactly what part they played in events is unclear, but what is well known is that the way people feel about charities is changing. Organisations that used to have a collecting pot in a bar or outside shops are now following people through cities with direct debit forms and constantly spraying letters out left, right and centre.
So here's a golden rule for charity marketers -- and it comes straight from my doormat, which is heaving with constant depictions of the sick children I have yet to help live. The channel a person interacts with you on is the channel they want to deal with you on. I have signed up online to a small handful of charities, yet for some reason they keep sending me begging letters rather than emails or Facebook messages. It's not only annoying -- it's actually counterproductive. Talk to me on the digital channels I have shown I'm interested in talking to you on and there is a very direct way I can contribute extra. It might be sharing content or increasing a direct debit, perhaps contributing to a one-off special project. Whatever it is, it's just a click away.
Keep writing to me, though, and there's nothing much I can do. I'm not going to pick up the phone and I'm certainly not going to fill out a form to send you back my credit card details. Write a cheque and post it? Sorry, what's a cheque?
The ultimate irony is that the constant barrage of junk mail will put people off from interacting with charities when the penny finally drops and they begin to engage more digitally. By then, public opinion will be so low that people will be far less likely to click the online button to donate.
Considering that the UK comes out tops on most research studies looking for the most generous charity givers, it seems as if there is a second septic award here. Not only do charities put people off by harassing them on the wrong medium, they're managing to turn off the most generous -- or at least one of the most generous nations -- on Earth.
So, charities, just think about this long and hard. What do you want to do -- talk to people on the responsive digital platforms they're starting to engage with you where they can donate at the click of a button? Or do you want to keep banging them over the heads with letters they never wanted to receive that they can do very little with and will ultimately stop them from engaging with you on the channels where giving is just a click away?
It's a no-brainer, surely?