It’s not the crocodiles you can see.

I do not often read the site Mumbrella but I gather that it is a much-loved hub for Australian media professionals.

Anyhow, I have seen a few people link to a piece there on the “aggressive” new fundraising techniques of charitable organisations. The author, long-enamoured of the Amnesty logo, is so troubled by its collection M.O., he now sees the famous candle as representing a

bunch of pests on the street asking me for money.

Basically, he is annoyed with tin-rattlers and asks, more or less, “Why just I can’t be left in peace to make my perfectly rational and conscious choices as a consumer which are no way impacted by billions of dollars worth of marketing?”

On one level, I understand his revulsion. I too dislike talking to strangers and having my emotions pressed quickly into the service of profit.  I am still smarting from an ambassador from the adolescent cancer support organisation Canteen who scuttled up to me wearing a “chemo” bandana.

Dude. Cancer cosplay is uncool.

I have also, let it be said, written to the Red Cross for the hauteur of one its employees who refused to listen when I declined her kind offer of signing up for a regular program of giving.  She didn’t seem to “get” that my modest annual sum had already been committed to others and kept declaring “We’re the best!” as though charity was a competitive market practice and not a private exchange.

But, the thing is, charity is a competitive market practice, It is not as it is described in Corinthians and it is silly for me, or anyone, to expect that it is any longer the thing that Paul hoped that it would be.  It is both a conspicuous act of compassionate consumption—no longer the quiet caritas that binds me to my neighbour—and very much something that must be actively sought.

This is not a criticism. Just a statement of fact. There has never been such a time that places so many demands on our capital; both cultural and financial. There has never been a time when our hearts are forced to break in so many directions. So it only makes sense that charities  would use the rational tools of the marketplace.  Who can blame them?

And this is the myopic thing about this piece; and probably the reason I don’t often visit that site despite, as a media professional, being its intended audience. (This is not a broad critique of Mumbrella; as I said, I am not that familiar with it as whenever I have visited it never seems to explain media in a way that makes any sense to me. I’m sure it makes sense to other people in the business.)    The author—who is walking around a shopping district—feels moved to critique the market when it is soliciting his donations for charity. I don’t understand how this analysis can overlook an account of a market that is always asking for his money.

We cannot expect “better” behaviour from those soliciting our money for charitable ends than from those soliciting our money for purely commercial ends. This agression is surely the only way in which organisations can meaningfully collect funds. How else to compete with billion-dollar branding designed to land in my dreams?

It strikes me as a bit rich to get all Aquinas on the purity of charity and give the free market a free pass. How else are they supposed to get dosh? In quiet humility? It is the market that has created this kind of “crass” behaviour.

This sort of “aggressive” fundraising doesn’t work for me as it doesn’t work for the author.  But that is kind of irrelevant. It works, as marketing techniques that are regularly practised tend to, on large number of people so I am not going to suddenly get all  New Testament on how charity should fund itself.

Look. I just see this sort of shit a lot. The invasive, near-criminal techniques of the market we accept as inevitable. It is okay to pump shit into my brain and turn me into a money-giving, thing-buying irrational actor but it is not okay to ask me for a dollar.

What the actual cock?

I totally get that none of us likes to think the tenderest parts of us have been attacked by the market.  Our giving should be “real”. But the thing is, our compassion is bought and sold every time we step into a supermarket.

Fair Trade.  Free Range.  I have even seen a brand of breakfast cereal called “Thank You” which dares me NOT to buy the ONLY MUESLI ON THE MARKET that gives some of its profits to non-specific feel-good causes.  If this isn’t a poisonous invasion of my unconscious, then my id is called Simon.

This charity technique is just a more visible, and therefore more consciously manageable, way of taking my money. And, you know, it takes my money very often to a better place.  It is so easy for us to criticise crude systems and break down obvious walls.  Really, it is the walls we can no longer see that condemn us.

The author is in a shopping centre. And the greatest assault to his liberty he sees is someone rattling a can. Mate. Look around you.

FFS. We are SO fucked. As I’m told they say in the Territory, it is not the crocodiles we can see that are the greatest threat.

10 comments for “It’s not the crocodiles you can see.

  1. Cathy
    February 14, 2014 at 3:17 pm

    I mean, they should just quietly do their good works in an old house somewhere run by older parish ladies who quietly do charitable works for no money just like in the old days and I wouldn’t have to feel mildly inconvenienced while I buy a pool noodle.

    • February 14, 2014 at 3:21 pm

      hahahahhahah funny fucker

  2. Justine
    February 14, 2014 at 7:31 pm

    Nice piece Helen. Although, for the first time in my life last year, I felt compelled to call the National Heart Foundation and give them a blast. My dad died very suddenly and unexpectedly last year. In the days after as we were sitting and reeling from the shock, we received a letter addressed to Dad from the Heart Foundation, “Dear Mr Gannon, Due to your recent death, donations have been made in your name by X, Y and Z.” !!!!!!! Can someone please read the marketing collateral or get the mail merge to work correctly?

    • February 14, 2014 at 7:54 pm

      OMFG.
      Look. Charities (and particularly medical ones) have a range of problems. And so much of the time when I am asked for money, I a resentful that my taxes aren’t spent on the problem these charities seek to solve OR I’m doubly annoyed by the Big Society bullshit that sees services that should be properly and directly managed by the state outsourced to charities.
      And I know not-for-profits can do some dodgy stuff.
      But mostly, apart from being terribly shat that you had to go through this crass bureaucratic reminder that your dad had died,I was pooped off with this “How Very Dare They” tone. Especially from a website that celebrates marketing as something natural and good.
      I am so sorry to learn about your dad. Can’t even begin to imagine how shit that must have been x

  3. Sophie Anderson
    February 18, 2014 at 2:30 pm

    I missed the bit where the author wrote that when in a shopping centre, seeing someone rattling a can is the greatest assault to his liberty. Oh wait, that’s right, he didn’t. I love how you make these snide and patronising ‘Oh why isn’t everyone as smart as me?’ comments when you disagree with someone. What’s the point of that besides being annoying and alienating people? I’m with the author, I hate getting accosted when out shopping and like him, I don’t believe it will help charities in the long run. I miss the days when you could just throw $5 at a charity collector without breaking your stride instead of having to listen to a spiel about direct debit. If that makes me a bad person, I’ll wear it.

    • February 18, 2014 at 3:56 pm

      I was making a comment about the author’s inability to see the multiple entreaties to his custom around him. I was more generally making the “partonising” and “snide” point that it is the things that we do not see that impact us the most.
      I made this point on a website one has to go out of one’s way to visit. I did not rattle a tin in your face and so, I now enjoin you to please yourself by staying out of my ambit where I will continue to make the point that we are a nation of very stupid people so lazy that we only object to things that are shoved obviously under our noses and not the things shoved invisibly into our heads.
      This sort of whining objection to McDonald’s in one’s “heritage” suburb. People will protest a threat to their property value but not the idea of McDonald’s itself.
      Please allow yourself the luxury of never visiting my work again. You deserve it! You’re worth it. You work hard.

      • Sophie Anderson
        February 19, 2014 at 12:17 pm

        I did actually read the whole article and I get the point you were making – am definitely guilty of being lazy/stupid myself. My point is, is that you claim to live by the moral code ‘attack the view, not the person’, yet regularly take patronising swipes at people/put words into their mouths just to give things a dramatic flair. How do you know he doesn’t notice ‘the multiple entreaties to his custom around him’? Obviously most people don’t but just because someone is irritated by something small does not mean they always ignore the world at large. Maybe this guy should write an essay of how petty your loathing of food trucks is? I mean, if a food truck is the worst thing you see on a street…….Mate. Look around you.

        • February 19, 2014 at 6:09 pm

          Please go away.

  4. CAP
    February 23, 2014 at 1:33 pm

    Every time I drink B4nR0c|< Stn (sorry about the strange characters but I'm not sure about the legality of actually writing the brand) I feel extra good knowing that my drinking has helped save the earth…. I refuse to overthink this. I have such little choice in the market place I'm just happy with my illusion.

  5. Lola
    February 23, 2014 at 3:19 pm

    Another thing that shits me about these marketing people, is that they’re too dumb (or naive) to understand that the capitalism they love works in totality, and provides them with the very solution they’re too stupid to see. If everyone hates the hard-selling techniques of the charities, the charities will fail. When people realise how little of their money actually goes to the charity when they donate to chuggers, they’ll stop. The solution to this idiot’s first-world problem is…ta da…more marketing!

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