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Why do people hate charities so much?

Why do people hate charities so much?
Opinion

Why do people hate charities so much?

Fundraising | Reuben Turner | 1 Mar 2007

Why do people hate charities so much, asks Reuben Turner and Simon Frank.

You’re wonderful people, you lot. You work tirelessly to cure cancer, save the environment, end poverty… between you, you probably save the lives of thousands of people every day. Kids are eating. Puppies are being saved from canals. You get the picture.

In fact, we’d go so far as to say the collective readership of this magazine is a greater force for good than Mother Theresa and Santa Claus put together. Why then, does the British public appear to detest you so wholeheartedly? Why do they cross the road to avoid your chuggers?

Why do they open their newspapers over the bin to avoid even seeing your inserts? Why do they write angry letters to the Daily Mail because you’ve popped a perfectly nice leaflet through their door?

After all, people don’t react in the same way to commercial brands. There is the odd exception (Dasani – Coke’s tapwater in a bottle – caused such a backlash it was taken off the shelves). But generally, commercial organisations have been allowed to get away with the worst excesses of marketing imaginable (in fact, both of us have been responsible for some of them).

There is a difference, though. Even the worst advert for an international drinks company attempts to exhibit a modicum of wit, charm and intelligence. It tries to persuade people into buying its product, not bludgeon them. It doesn’t try and make them feel guilty for not consuming its fizzy, tartrazine-rich beverages. In fact, it tries to make them feel good for the positive act of purchase.

Most of all, it tries to be new and different. Because commercial organisations – successful ones, anyway – hold innovation in the highest esteem. New products, and new variations on old products, are being developed all the time. 

Take soap powder – you can now buy powder, liquid, tablets and even liquitabs from most manufacturers, in every size, shape, price and format imaginable. And all they do is wash clothes.

Forget the products for a moment, and think how many techniques have been employed to sell washing powder. Persil is now encouraging people to get dirty – an idea that would have been totally inconceivable 10 years ago. But the story’s the same. It’s just dirty clothes —clean clothes. 

How many interesting stories do we have? How many millions of lives do our organisations touch? How many different, new innovative ways of doing what we do, do we develop all the time?

So why does our creative all look and sound, basically, the same?

Take chuggers, for example. Hundreds of people will walk past them for every one who stops to chat. Of those few that stop, how many will be talked into signing up for a direct debit? And of those, how many stay long enough to justify the cost of recruiting them?

For every person who profitably signs up in this way, thousands of others have been exposed to your brand – in an almost entirely negative way. They haven’t just seen your logo. They’ve actually crossed the road to avoid it.

The reason most people walk past is that they’ve heard it all before. They know the drill. They know there will be a few shocking facts and pictures, then a well-crafted sales argument that will lead towards the setting up of a direct debit. They know they will be made to feel bad if they say ‘no’.

The causes vary enormously, but the methods don’t change one iota. It’s yesterday’s chugger in a different tabard. Often literally.

This isn’t an attack on chuggers. It’s an analogy. Think of them as just another recruitment medium – inserts or doordrops composed of flesh and blood, if you will.

As an industry, our creative is based on formula. We see what someone else has done, then we try to copy it. Because ‘it works’. No other industry thinks this way. Persil wouldn’t use the same approach as Ariel but would invest in innovation – product, marketing or both. They’d try to get one step ahead – either by using a slightly different, slightly better approach; or a radically different one.

Perhaps you should give it a try. Perhaps you’ll make a few more friends. After all, you deserve to.

Reuben Turner and Simon Frank are the creative directors at Cascaid

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