Do Guilt and Cynicism Work? A Case Study
In fact, the words “one gift” (as in you only need to make just “one gift”) appear four times in the short enclosed letter.
Ick. This message plays to one too many negative impulses.
It plays on the donor’s guilt. Who could be so hard hearted that you would really only give one measly gift to a hungry child? That would never be me. Oh please, sign me up to be a sustaining donor. Send as many letters as you like!
It plays to the donor’s cynicism. Hooray! I’m checking the “never contact me again” box. One and done. I’ll never have to think about a hungry child again. My benevolent work is accomplished.
I’m not sure how the donor can actually feel good about his or her gift. Based on this appeal, making a donation to this international organization wouldn’t be out of wanting to help its mission. Or believing that the donor is making a difference. Or from a place of gratitude. The donor would be driven by either guilt or by cynicism.
Apparently (and sadly so), this approach must work on some level or they wouldn’t be making such an offer. Like I said, I was curious enough to open the envelope (which is the most challenging thing large non-profits face in mass appeal letters). But I am choosing not to give. Not because I don’t believe in the cause (which I do) but because I know there are lots of other great organizations doing similar work who don’t try to motivate by guilt or cynicism.
Here is your charge: Inspire generosity not through guilt or cynicism but from a place of gratitude and belief in the power of the mission. That’s what will keep your congregation and donors with you for the long haul. Now “Get Out” there and joyfully do the right thing.
Cesie Delve Scheuermann (pronounced “CC Delv Sherman,” yes, really) is a consultant in stewardship, development, and grant writing. Over the past fifteen years, while working as a volunteer and part-time consultant, she helped raise over three million dollars for numerous non-profit organizations. She is still sleeping with one eye open after “Get Out.” She was the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference Lay Leader from 2008-2012. Her position with the Conference is funded through a generous grant from the Collins Foundation. She is available to consult with churches. You can reach her at email@example.com or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/inspiringgenerosity.
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Cesie Delve Scheuermann is consultant in grant writing and stewardship/development working with the Conference. From 2008-12 she was the Conference Lay Leader for the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference.