Here's a case of almost criminal sloppiness in reporting about fundraising -- from USA Today: Charities mail out coins, hope for larger return. The lead:
A growing number of charities across the USA are taking a nickel-and-dime approach to encourage donations by mail, despite some evidence that including coins in solicitations turns off potential donors.
The sum total of the "evidence" that coins turn off potential donors are a quote from the president of Charity Navigator and another quote from a mother of four from Springfield, VA, who remembers being annoyed by a coin mailing a few years ago.
With nary an actual fact about coin-based fundraising between them.
There were also several quotes from fundraisers and experts who made the obvious point that coin mailings are done because they work (not in order to annoy people), and the fact that coins are being used in fundraising is proof that they indeed work. But that somehow didn't cause the lead of the story to be Charities send out coins because it works.
It's no big surprise that reporting in USA Today is sloppy, incomplete, and slanted.
It's worse that Charity Navigator used the megaphone handed to them by an enquiring reporter to continue their War on Fundraising. This time by joining the press meme that charitable organizations are a bunch of idiotic, annoying stumblebums who don't even know they're wasting all their money.
While I've come across a few nonprofits that fit that description, most are professional, smart, and careful with every dollar. Spreading the other impression is unfair, harmful to good causes, and utterly irresponsible.
I wish Charity Navigator would take a more fact-based approach to this and other similar fundraising tactics, and say something like this:
We know that getting unsolicited coins in the mail annoys many people, because we get complaints about it all the time. But most nonprofit organizations are smart and responsible and are constantly working to find the most efficient and effective ways to raise funds. They send coins because doing so is a positive motivation for many people.
Telling the public what they can do to reduce or opt out of coin mailings (even mailings in general) would also be perfectly fair.
But helping spread the belief that nonprofits in general are stupid and wasteful -- that gives people one more reason not to give, which undermines our fundraising effectiveness. Which hurts the good work we all do.