The envelope arrived with stamp stating “Renewal Notice.” There was no return address, but I assumed that it was from one of the many magazines and newspapers I receive. That’s exactly how it looked, right down to the alphanumeric code atop the address label.


It wasn’t. It was actually a pitch from a charity. I won’t mention the name, but you know it. It’s one of the nation’s most prominent charitable organizations. It’s one that does great things for the people it serves. And I won’t send a dime its way.


The “Renewal Notice” reflected the fact that I had made a donation to this group a couple decades ago, and they wanted me to “renew” my gift. Nothing wrong with that, given that past donors can often be a great source for new gifts. But why did they feel the need to mislead me by making it look as if it had come from a magazine? Why were they so cagey that they couldn’t put the organization’s name or return address on the envelope? And why was the copy written to make it seem that I had just made a donation last year or so, instead of back when most people used AOL to access the internet?


Why did a charity that wanted me to trust it with some of my money approach me like a confidence artist instead of as a reputable group? You’re obviously trying to deceive me, so why should I trust you?


It reminds me of another well-known organization that sent me a letter “reminding” me that I had given a certain amount in the preceding year. I thought I had given less, but chalked it up to faulty memory and mailed a check for the amount mentioned. The next year, I received the same notice, but with a higher amount. I dug my check registers out, and sure enough, each year’s mail inflated the actual amount given the previous year. If I gave $40, the letter told me I gave $50. And when I gave $50, it told me $60. Guess how much I gave that year? Nothing. Guess how much I’ve given in the years that followed? Zilch. It’s a great organization, but they lied to me.


Charitable organizations depend on reputation and trust more than their for-profit counterparts. Donors want to be sure that the dollars they give will be used as promised. But when greedy managers decide to use sleazy fundraising tactics to fool donors (no weasel-wording; that’s exactly what they are doing), they toss those all-important reputations and hard-earned trust into the trash. I’ll never give to either of those organizations again, no matter how many pleas they send my way. And the same goes for any other charity I support if they opt for the sleazy route.