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Spending Dollars to Raise Pennies? II

On Tuesday I posted the first half of an email I sent to Jessica Bennett, a reporter at Newsweek.

The rest of her questions and my answers follow.

Ms. Bennett quoted me in her article, which you can read here.

Also, my email to her included several links which I neglected to include in Tuesday's post.

I've revised Tuesday's post to include those links. Feel free to read it here.

4. Are we buying merely to clear our consciouses?

You know, I'm not sure if I'm equipped to answer this question. I will say this, Americans are far and away the most generous donors to charity: in 2005 those donations exceeded $260 billion. Part of that is because we don't practice the social welfare state the way the Europeans do. Part of it is because we have very favorable tax laws. But assume for a second that IEG is right and something like $1.3 billion comes from cause marketing. That's a pittance compared to the total donations going to charities. If we are buying to assuage our conscious, we're getting off cheap.

5. It seems that RED is just the latest in fad-ish activism. but is the desire to be in style outweighing people's knowledge or care about the real issues?

On my blog, I'm always reinforcing the point that there has to be something really there for the campaign to be truly effective. It can't just be celebrity flash. I've seen some, although certainly not all of RED's materials and my opinion is that they're pretty good on that count. I have also seen materials that comes from their sponsors that I thought could and should have gone into greater depth about the problems and the solutions.

6. is it still charity when one gives only to get?

Strictly speaking no, cause marketing's not a charitable gift. Most cause marketing donations are pennies. Only cause marketing campaigns for very large ticket items offer charitable donations that are in the tens of dollars. A very rare few are in the hundreds. No matter the amount, have fun trying to write them off on your taxes.

7. Is putting money toward a status symbol really socially responsible?

Interesting question. Many charities raise money via galas. There's probably one every night of the year in Manhattan. I'll bet there's at least 30 a year in smaller towns like Fargo or Augusta, Maine. The people that go to galas, bid on the auction items, smooze clients, and yawn through the program are doing so at least in part to advance their social standing. And you know what, they CAN deduct part of the money they spent on the gala from their taxes!


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