Service of Gorilla Fundraising

November 1st, 2012

Categories: Charity, Fundraising

I’ve written about businesses that, at the cash register, try to embarrass and strong-arm customers into buying a book or groceries-or whatever they sell-so that they can donate the items to charity. If putting the squeeze on customers who may or may not already be pressed financially isn’t bad enough, they then take credit for “donating” [while making a profit], what their customers actually have given to food pantries or children or others in need.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, it’s bound to start up again. I’ve seen a business, a TV network and a  major bank heading the charge.

In addition, I’ve observed several recent techniques that inspired a reprise post. I live near a town and try to use its vendors. I am off-put when children, often with parents, stand in front of the door of the small business I want to enter. They are often selling tickets for a raffle to raise money for a team trip or uniforms. When this happened the other day, card tables with a team of kids around each were posted in front of doors throughout town. If you gave at one you felt cornered at the others.

The other month the subject line in an email I received, from an organization to which I belong, noted that I had not yet signed up to attend thus and such a fundraising event. I found the threatening and accusatory language inappropriate and a turnoff. What made it worse was that I had signed up long before and I still felt uncomfortable by the inference.

Threatening subject lines on emails arrive for non-charitable causes–such as joining webinars or attending conferences–and it’s just as off-putting especially when sent by a stranger, although I don’t expect an acquaintance to reprimand me because I haven’t agreed to participate in an event or to buy something.

Do you have examples of gorilla fundraising or do you believe that anything goes if you believe in and want to support the cause? Where do you draw the line?

6 Responses to “Service of Gorilla Fundraising”

  1. JBS Said:

    I give only to organizations that I know and that I’ve checked on (Charities Review Council checks on all Minnesota charities and the big national ones, like Red Cross, Salvation Army, etc.) I’m more likely to give if my former company matches it (and they generally do for big disasters).

    I donate clothing, shoes, household goods, etc. yearly, sometimes more than once a year. (Hint: Take pictures of donations, so that you can show the IRS what you donated. I group things and take a single picture, then keep it in a file with the tag I get from the charity).

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Great tips.

    I take it you are not intimidated by random requests for money and support. You obviously have a plan and you stick to it.

  3. Frank Pierce Said:

    The toughest gorilla fund raising I’ve encountered is the religious kind, and it’s a practice that is ecumenical and multinational.

    When a friend of mine decided not pay the stiff membership “dues” to a certain American fundamentalist religion, he and his family were shunned, his father was put out of business, and he had to move across the country to start a new life. This particular religion is highly successful and has placed many of its practitioners in positions of great power possibly even to the Presidency itself.

    I once lived in a country where the religion of the land was not the one of which I was then nominally a member. Anyone wishing to attend religious services other than those permitted by the government, had to do so within the premises of a certain foreign embassy. How did the “established” religion, which was massively wealthy, fund itself? The government funded it. How did the government fund itself? It collected taxes. And supposing you didn’t pay your taxes on moral principle? You went to jail or worse – a most effective gorilla.

    Lastly, I had the misfortune through my own foolishness to serve on the development committee of a New York State not-for-profit for many years, and the most illuminating experience of watching our most effective fund raiser work the phones. He had the remarkable ability of knowing exactly what to say (usually a delicately veiled menace) to get what he was after out of each of his victims, as well as an uncanny instinct to know when he had squeezed the last drop. Once, I complemented him on his work, and he replied, “That ain’t nothing. You should see me go to work for ______.” He named one of the city’s richest and most prominent religious institutions.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I have goose pimples reading your comment. You are right: There are gorillas everywhere.

    I have heard stories of poor people who are frightened by clergy to open purses that are almost empty and threatened with hell if they don’t contribute to their house of worship.

  5. Lucrezia Said:

    It may sound heartless, but if menaced by questionable tactics, just hang up, trash the request, walk away, or whatever action is appropriate. Many nonprofits play the guilt card, or send unsolicited gifts hoping to coax the prospective victim into giving. The best way to discourage these actions is failure to respond. Too many people pay up, so the loathsome mailbox fillers keep coming.

    Remember, it takes two to tango. Enough failure to respond will eventually cost the organization too much, and they may take the hint. I enjoy dreaming…….

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    It’s not heartless it’s necessary.

    I find in-person, on the street or at cash register approaches the hardest to turn away but I am getting better at it.

    As it is I have more return address labels than I can use before the adhesive dries out!

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