Wednesday, July 18, 2012
The Naked Truth: When Fundraising Goes Wrong
Sometimes I wonder what must go on in the mind of post office personnel as they process and deliver the mail. They have a very personal glimpse into our lives; the magazines we subscribe to, the coupons we receive, the stacks of bills, cards and letters, and envelope after envelope of credit card companies trying to lure us into yet another low interest rate. This weekend, I can’t even begin to imagine what our friendly postal worker thought as in between a card from a friend, an appeal from Concordia University, and the lease statement for our car, was ESPN Magazine - The Body Issue.
I won’t even tell you my immediate thoughts (because my grandmother and pastor's wife read this blog) as I unfolded the magazine in the front yard walking back to the house and to my shock saw a completely nude female athlete on the cover. Now let’s be honest, I’ve seen “artistic” modeling before and partial nudity is nothing new to the readers of Vogue or Instyle, but this issue made the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue look like the church newsletter. Not just the cover, but page after page after page displaying athletes wearing only the uniform of their birthday suits. I double and triple checked that indeed this was sent to the correct address. And in my husband’s name.
I decided to wait until he arrived back from Chicago to ask if one of his buddies had thought this would be a good joke. But I quickly learned that was not the case. I wish I could go back in time and have a video capturing his face and the next comments that came out of his mouth as he surveyed the photojournalism. I soon found out that this was a fundraiser gone very, very wrong and that he along with several other teachers and parents had subscribed to ESPN Magazine as part of a fundraiser for a school sports program. Immediately Kevin called another teacher friend to learn that his wife had a similar reaction. He jokingly asked if I wanted to trade him issues, because theirs had a male athlete on the front. I declined.
Being in fundraising and development myself, I find the whole thing absolutely hilarious, and when I think about it can’t help but laugh out loud. I’ve heard fundraising horror stories that run everywhere from letters with the wrong donor name, to unsuspecting volunteers who were forced to make and then sell homemade pickles, to frozen goods that never came in, to events that have been rained out. But this one takes the cake. There was no possible way that the fundraising committee could have known the content of the magazine or that this would be the first issue out to donors. I will be sharing this story at future AFP (Association of Fundraising Professionals) events for years to come. And I can’t help but wonder...will they raise more money now than they did when they were just selling subscriptions?