Friday, 26 July 2013

What would possess you to walk a 1000 miles?

"But I would walk 500 miles and I would walk 500 more  just to be the man who walked 1,000 miles.." Now no offense to the Proclaimers, it really is a great song but other than the fact that a man struck with a  romantic notion is willing to walk 1,000 miles for love - what does it really mean?  I know 1,000 miles is a very long way - but it is difficult for me to put it into context and that is often the issue with using big numbers.

I like Sightsavers.  I like what they do and I never fail to be moved by a charity that helps overcome sight loss in some of the poorest communities in the world.

Anyway,  in the post this week I received a mailing and it was worthy of comment for a few reasons.
    I am a fan of 'thank yous' and as an industry (in my opinion) we do not do it well enough. Often 'thank you' letters are an after thought, churned out at the last minute and merely recap on the last appeal they read and responded to.  So a mailing dedicated to offering 'thanks' was very nice to receive.

    To be honest though when I saw it, I thought 'oh no'.  It introduced lots of statistics that I have little chance of fully appreciating the scope but more than that I struggled as to where my contribution totally fits in.  After all we are more likely to buy-in to supporting someone in need than we are to support a statistic?

    It also started down a route that frequently worries me, whereby the feedback tells you that you achieved huge change when you know you only give £5.00 per month for example.  Not to say that the £5 is not adding value - but 'huge change' although difficult to qualify is a stretch. Accumulated with other £5.00s then the potential is indeed huge!

    I am sure there is a mathematical equation illustrating the gap between 'suspended disbelief' and 'feedback satisfaction' directly relating to the value of gift given and the claims made of its impact. I am no mathematician but there must be a point whereby the over zealous personalisation claiming that my generosity has built x in deepest darkest y can feel like too much of a stretch of reality to become a negative experience. Anyway, another post for another time. 

    Okay, so back to the mailing, I read it.  Now obviously this is not what all supporters will do but I read the bits I was meant to, the underlined copy, the PS, skimmer style and I found some wonderful sentiments that mitigated my negative feelings and some elements that packed a punch in delivering understanding of the issues faced by the visually impaired in the developing world and actually made me want to give.

    I was particularly struck by:

    It was wonderful to be able to do so much, and we're all so grateful to you for your support.  But while those figures are exciting to us, you might be wondering how much your contribution could really have done to help.

    This was actually what I was wondering - and I do constantly - so I thought this addressed the issues very well and how nicely written.  Lovely. Of course you could argue that if that was the question left hanging then why execute the piece in this way - but that would be churlish as I thought how they addressed it was really nice.
     And then the underlined text that followed.

    So let me assure you that you've helped boys and girls, mums and dads, grandparents, aunties and cousins in some of the poorest countries in the world.  And their stories aren't about big numbers - they're about the small miracles that your support is making possible every day.

    Lovely sentiment once again and the power was in the juxtaposition created and reminding me that they are all those things to their families.

    So I am feeling a little bit more reassured that my small gift has made a genuine difference - but will that be enough to make me give?  This is, as I read on a thank you with an ask.

    The answer is YES! And the main reason was this one sentence:

    '....Among them are mothers who have never seen their children's faces.  Fathers who can no longer work to support their families.  Boys and girls who are shouted at for being 'stupid' and 'lazy' and who struggle to get the education they deserve.'

    It is amazing what grabs us as individuals, what presses a button that generates a visceral reaction and this was it, partly because I think such sentiment and honesty in presenting the situation for some 'beneficiaries' is seldom seen and because it takes some bravery from the organisation to be that honest. The words 'stupid' and 'lazy' rang out in my ears - the injustice and the cruelty stirred me.

    I am obviously commenting based on my experience of portrayal of service users / beneficiaries - where the focus is more on not portraying the problem.  This not only successfully portrays the issues but with very few words encapsulates the prejudice, the tone and attitudes that many blind or visually impaired people can face.  Simple as that for me really.  In that moment they had my gift. And with pleasure.

    So all in all well done Sightsavers - I am still not convinced by leading with numbers but the right balance was struck for me - and I will happily accept your 'thank you' and you can do even more good with my donation.

    Thanks as ever for stopping by.