You’re sitting in your warm house sipping on your cider–Cough it up!

We’ve all grown up with “Don’t waste ___, do you know how many children would love to have it and you’re throwing it away?” or well, something to that effect. As a result I’ve always been respectful of my easy access to resources – a daily, heartbreaking struggle for so many others. What I’ve never really been able to decide upon is whether I like the guilt-creating approach to developing a conscience. And, if indeed it was effective.

It’s Holiday Season, and the retail-advertising gods have launched the “Annual Guilt Trips”. Retails stores want part of the holiday sales pie; heck at this point whether the US economy dips into recession depends on how much the American consumer spends this Christmas season. Non-profits also want to leverage the annual charitable giving season. Just check out the ads running on TV; they all look the same – the dusty background, the gaunt, vacant eyes, the protruding ribs, the despairing music. And they’re telling you that YOU can make a difference this holiday season.

Watching TV, munching on my dinner and enjoying a lazy evening at home I was just addressed by a NGO Anon advertisement. Two African children, brothers (They just say Africa because you know, Africa is one country, really just the size of Connecticut and as diverse) are beginning their day. The elder one, shirtless in raggedy shorts works and takes care of the smaller child. Flies flutter on and off their thin chests and arms. Then there is a close up. There are a few tears rolling down the older child’s face as he contemplates the misfortunate circumstance of his birth. Shift frame to a charming young actress, impeccably dressed telling me how I’m capable of making a difference. Moved by the images, I felt miserable about the full plate on my lap that probably had as many calories as those kids got all day. But I also knew – my philanthropy would never be directed to NGO Anon. I’m not Grinch and I don’t like being made to feel like that. My mother has the sole right to emotionally manipulate me. The list ends with her.

However, I did wonder if this approach works. While I couldn’t find any statistics to show the effectiveness of this approach, I came across a study that showed that 7 in 10 donors (both active and lapsed) did not like to be guilt-tripped. I’m going to go with it’s not the highest impact approach to fundraising. Normative questions, aside.

Disclaimer: I work at GlobalGiving.

Disclaimer 2: I have more than a couple of Starbucks coffees a week. I know how much they cost.

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