We recently wrote about the bizarre tale of HSUS fundraiser Loop NYC, which appears to raise money by soliciting random strangers on the New York subway system. For anyone who’s ever been on the system, this has to be one of the dumbest strategies: People want to avoid other people on the New York subway, not give them their credit card info.
One thing that caught our eye was the claim from the marketing firm that for every dollar a solicitor raised for HSUS, he received two. This is what one might call “fuzzy math.” Here’s how it works—and why it’s terrible for charities to do.
A charity, in this case HSUS, pays a solicitor money to attempt to raise funds. In some cases, the payment may be more than a solicitor actually raises (if the solicitor charges by the hour or by the call, for instance). Some veterans charities have been called out for operating in this way, whereby they raise millions but the solicitor keeps close to 100% of what’s raised and the veterans see next to nothing. (Or, in HSUS’s case, homeless animals see next to nothing.)
The charities defend this practice by saying they are essentially prospecting—they’re paying for a fund raiser to build a mailing list of donors that the charity can then reach out to, on its own, years down the line. But this fact is not made clear to donors, who think their money is being used now for charity—not put into the pockets of a fundraiser.
If solicitors were honest about it, people wouldn’t donate. That’s how you know it is a deceptive fundraising practice. And blame should be shared equally between both the solicitor and the charity, since they have an agreed-upon, detailed contract about the solicitation activity.