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Charitable Fundraising Gimmicks

John Quiggin is shaving off his 30-year-old beard as part of an Australian Leukemia Foundation fundraiser. It’s a commendable effort, to be sure, but one that brings to mind something that has perplexed me for years.

All manner of worthwhile charities hold events wherein people are “sponsored” based on how many miles they bike, laps they walk, hours they go without sleep, ropes they jump, or what have you. Why the need for the gimmick?

Are there some significant number of people who don’t give a damn about curing leukemia but are nonetheless willing to donate to the cause for whatever pleasure seeing people shave their beard yields? Or who aren’t sure whether breast cancer is more worth curing than some other disease and make that determination based on what physical challenges the antis are willing to undergo to prove their point?

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Heh. I couldn’t agree more. It’s a pet peeve of mine.

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  2. Tlaloc says:

    You know, I think I can see where this is going: a “Fear Factor” style reality show where people pledge money based on the asinine and disgusting things the contestants do.

    I think our culture has tripped over that line that separates the curiously eccentric from the damned idiots.

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  3. I think it is less the people being persuaded by the gimmick as the gimmick persuading the MSM to give the charity raising event publicity.

    I’m on one out of 1362 local boards for a charity that raised over $429 million in 2005 (2006 numbers not out yet). The charity is part of the fraternal organization of Thrivent Financial. I bet you haven’t heard about us, but in part because we don’t tend to do the “gimmicky” fundraisers. We also have trouble getting the MSM to cover our charity events. Related? Probably.

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  4. Is this a trick question? Perhaps because they make make more money with plaintive appeals for cash and gimmicks than plaintive appeals for cash alone?

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  5. James Joyner says:

    Perhaps because they make make more money with plaintive appeals for cash and gimmicks than plaintive appeals for cash alone?

    Sure, but why?

    I think it is less the people being persuaded by the gimmick as the gimmick persuading the MSM to give the charity raising event publicity.

    That makes a certain degree of sense, although presumably the gimmick could be a rally or a picnic or something rather than some feat of physical endurance.

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  6. Jeff says:

    I remember a political sourcebook thing from LI’s YLS that said have a car wash for a very small amount (or even free) and just take pledges from people per car washed and it would maximize revenue. Don’t remember a reason being cited.

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  7. Jeff,

    The car wash idea has been proven time after time int he real world. Give a car wash with “free will donation” as the cost and you make much more than setting a dollar amount. A few will “stiff you” with only a couple of bucks, but you more than make up for it with those who pull out a Jackson.

    James,

    The rally and picnics just don’t get coverage (as I know from personal experience). At best, you can get some coverage in the throw away suburban paper. Think Anne Nichol Smith. Why did she get so much coverage? Is she closer to the guy eating a bug for charity or holding a picnic for charity? We’ve also done the “lock up” for charity, where a “local celebrity” gets put in the Sheriff’s jail until enough donations are made to get them out. Even those don’t get much MSM publicity.

    BTW, I know of a church that recently held a fund raiser that was very successful in the church. They took the Pastor, President of the congregation, Head Elder and the Youth Director and had a donation jar for each of them. After two months, the sponsors of the jars with the least and most amount of money “wins”. The winners got to kiss a goat at the next voters meeting. People would donate either to get someone to kiss the goat or because the jar’s sponsor was in last place and out hustling for donations. Gimmicky? Absolutely. But even in the close confines of the church this generated more excitement for donations to help the youth group than anything else. More than bake sales, car washes, etc. People responded to the good nature ribbing and competition. These four prominent people in the church also worked much harder to get donations (at least when they were in danger of being last). It just seems to be a bit of human nature.

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  8. [...] James Joyner is perplexed by John Quiggin’s beard. Or, more precisely, by this: All manner of worthwhile charities hold events wherein people are “sponsored” based on how many miles they bike, laps they walk, hours they go without sleep, ropes they jump, or what have you. Why the need for the gimmick? Are there some significant number of people who don’t give a damn about curing leukemia but are nonetheless willing to donate to the cause for whatever pleasure seeing people shave their beard yields? Or who aren’t sure whether breast cancer is more worth curing than some other disease and make that determination based on what physical challenges the antis are willing to undergo to prove their point? [...]

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  9. [...] James Joyner is perplexed by John Quiggin’s beard. Or, more precisely, by this: All manner of worthwhile charities hold events wherein people are “sponsored” based on how many miles they bike, laps they walk, hours they go without sleep, ropes they jump, or what have you. Why the need for the gimmick? Are there some significant number of people who don’t give a damn about curing leukemia but are nonetheless willing to donate to the cause for whatever pleasure seeing people shave their beard yields? Or who aren’t sure whether breast cancer is more worth curing than some other disease and make that determination based on what physical challenges the antis are willing to undergo to prove their point? [...]

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  10. [...] James Joyner “is perplexed”:http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/archives/2007/03/charitable_fundraising_gimmicks/ by “John Quiggin’s beard”:http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/archives/2007/03/charitable_fundraising_gimmicks/. Or, more precisely, by this: [...]

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  11. taust says:

    the ingrained protestant work ethic ie do not give something for nothing

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  12. [...] For quite a few people, the prospect of seeing my beardless chin (or whatever lurks under there) has been enough to open wallets and maybe hearts. But for the more theoretically inclined, my appeal has served as the basis of some interesting discussions about reciprocity and charitable giving. The general view, it seems to me, is that accepting a gift entails an obligation to reciprocate. [...]

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