You see, this letter is from a charity that my family has supported on a monthly basis for over eight years. No, it's not a huge contribution, but I do send cheques for larger amounts from time to time and it is an important cause to me.
So why the "Dear Friend"?
Our name is printed on the bottom of the letter on an attached pledge card, so I know that this organization has the capacity to electronically personalize the salutation of the letter. Is it laziness?
If you read a little further down, you will see that the sender is asking for a small increase in our monthly contribution - not much more than the cost of a fancy coffee - so not a big deal, right? It's just that the letter started out in an impersonal tone and the way it ends is with an opt-out - ie. "we will begin withdrawing the increased amount from your account unless you are in touch with us to decline."
OK? But aren't donations usually an opt-in transaction? Frankly, I probably would have happily upped the ante at least $10-$15 / month if you'd asked rather than simply informed...
In addition, the timing of this letter was somewhat off too. It came in early January. Right about the time that I would normally expect to receive my annual thank you letter and tax receipt for the previous year's support. But that hasn't come yet.
The whole thing felt a lot more like a bill and a lot less like an "ask" by the time I got to the bottom of the letter. Could I at least have had a new picture of the kid I sponsor? We kinda joke that he must be a teenager now, he was about eight when we started all those years ago, surely he's grown since then?
So what keeps me on the roster despite the bad taste that this left in my mouth? I really don't feel like I could let Rafael in Peru down by moving on to another similar charity. I guess I just care too much about the mission. I guess that's why I felt so sad that the only news of the impact we've been making for our particular sponsored child was in the first paragraph of the letter and frankly, pretty shallow.
To me, this charity has assumed that I won't be leaving them any time soon and though they're probably right, I think I'd have more positive comments about this letter if it had been personal and provided a genuine connection to what we're partnering in together rather than leaving me feeling like an ATM.
I think the experience goes to show that we do give from the heart and that sometimes passion does rule our choices. Though I didn't think this organization did a great job here, I'd feel like a horrible person to abandon Rafael, so there's little chance that I'll be canceling the gift or opting out of their increase. However, I'll probably be looking to spend more of my giving budget elsewhere rather than increasing my contribution to this charity.
What do you think? Am I being too harsh? Would you opt-out?
*Update* (April 2012)
There is a full discussion of this fundraising campaign happening at a national level following a CBC Marketplace report: http://www.cbc.ca/marketplace/2012/busted/
You can check in over at the Agents of Good blog for more commentary and a response from the charity that sent this letter.