Cause for concern?

Gimmicky gifts from charities meant to increase donations are having the opposite effect.
Learn more

01.Misguided marketing

Choosing a charity

In the dark

Consumers who want to know how much of their charitable donation will be consumed by the charity’s overhead costs don’t have much to go by. And they haven’t for a while. A whopping 81% of the 240 donors we surveyed in a 2008 investigation didn’t know exactly where their money was going, and 94% placed a high importance on being able to find out. Not long after that story was published, a Senate investigation found the mishmash of regulations in the sector “forms a significant barrier to transparency”. 

Tchotchke overload

We made the point in our 2008 story that expenses probably aren’t the most important consideration when deciding which charity to donate to. But for some consumers, the appearance of excessive spending can have a negative effect on donations. One CHOICE member, Lance Boucher, recently got in touch after receiving a request package from a major charity that included a pen fashioned into a magic wand. And, to make matters worse, he’d had no previous connection to the charity and didn’t know how it got hold of his details. “My wife and I receive many such requests, and these days they’re often accompanied by labels, notepads, a pen, even a pocket keylight. Considering the costs of production, packaging and distribution, we wonder how much of one’s donation actually reaches the specified beneficiaries.” A number of CHOICE staffers had similar experiences in the lead-up to the holiday season last year, receiving items including personalised pens and address labels, notepads and charity-themed toys and trinkets. 

Boucher says giving annually to a few chosen charities has led to an onslaught of unsolicited requests. “We - and, we suspect, many others - are increasingly reluctant to give for fear of being targeted for further harassment.” 

Boucher's view appears to be well-founded. Eighty-three of the 85 respondents to our Facebook call-out said such freebie gift packages had a negative impact on their willingness to give and called into question how the charity was spending its donations. Here’s a sample of some of the posts: 

Kerrie F “If they can afford to send stuff out to me, they obviously do not need my money.” 

Bruce W “I assume the receipt of a gift is meant to make me feel guilty enough to make a donation. But it doesn’t, because it smacks of manipulation. The charities, I think, need to rethink their approach to fundraising.” 

Imants E “Baiting me with free gifts does not work. I keep their offerings in a box for 12 months in case they want them back, after which time I ditch them.” 

Decima F “I object to my contribution being used to solicit further donations. I want it to be used for the purpose for which it was intended.” 

Rachel W “Receiving something I don’t want or need makes me angry about the waste of resources. I deregistered from one organisation because of the obviously copious amounts of money spent on their mail-outs.” 

Catherine S “It’s a very irritating trend. Pens, address labels, key rings, gift tags, greeting cards, cute animal photos and bottlebrush seeds are among the things that have arrived with a request for a donation. Very guilt-provoking, but I have got to the point of not donating in the hope it will reduce this practice.” 



Sign up to our free

Receive FREE email updates of our latest tests, consumer news and CHOICE marketing promotions.

Your say - Choice voice

Make a Comment

Members – Sign in on the top right to contribute to comments