When a crisis like the Japan earthquake happens, non-profit organizations jump into action. But in an increasingly media-savvy world, people are getting more and more skeptical about cause-related marketing, celebrities, and “relief” organizations that pop up on the screen out of nowhere. Just last week, I found a religious TV ministry raising money for Japan relief. Now I know this ministry, and know they don’t have a clue about Japan. Never been involved there, and to my knowledge, don’t have the ability to make a difference now. Hopefully, they’re at least just handing the money off to an organization already there. But either way – that type of disconnect creates real skepticism in the minds of viewers and donors.
Likewise, another “hot” cause is sex trafficking. I watched a religious TV program just this week raising money to stop sex trafficking. But again, these people know nothing about the issue and don’t have any boots on the ground making a difference in that area. So what are they doing with the money? Good question.
Recently, Microsoft offered to donate $1 to Japan relief for every time someone forwarded their Twitter promotional message about their search engine “Bing.” Needless to say, it created a flood of complaints from online users and they ended up apologizing.
In the religious space in particular, we need to be careful. Even in normal circumstances, too many ministries raise lots of money for a cause, but only a fraction of that money actually gets into the field. They claim “media costs,” “overhead,” “production costs,” and a host of other reasons to keep a huge slice of the money. Certainly there are legitimate expenses along this line, but let’s keep them within reason.
Today, audiences aren’t stupid. My advice? Go overboard on integrity. Show us exactly where the money is going. Take the lead in being accountable. Don’t just jump into a cause you know nothing about as a way to make some quick money.
Take the high road. Donors are a lot more savvy these days.