How NOT To Raise Money For Charity

It seems stories of “fails” are popular online these days. Well, here’s a gigantic and disturbing “fail” story of a non-profit trying to raise money via an event.

About two months ago, I received a letter from the non-profit letting me know I had been “selected” to be model in an October fashion show benefit. It would cost $1000 to appear in the show. Because I had no connection to the organization and my address clearly came from a mailing list (because I was identified as a spokesperson for a client, rather than my position at Tanner Friedman), I discarded the letter.

In late August, I received an email from the organization asking if I had selected my modeling outfit yet and wondering if I had heard promotional announcements on a local radio station. The email also said an invoice would be sent to me so I could make my “contribution.” I promptly responded, saying that I was unavailable to participate and please do not send me an invoice.

Today, an official ritzy invitation appeared in the mail. On it, I am listed (as “Media Relations” for my client as my title) as one of 91 “models” at this fashion show. A small disclaimer says that the list “may be subject to change at the time of the fashion show.” Essentially, my name is being used, without my permission, to sell tickets to an event for which I never committed.
My guess is that I’m not the only one in this situation so I have reached out to others who appear on the invitation to let them know.

I’m not revealing the name of the organization – yet. I sent an email tonight to the executive director (whom I talked to at an event in January for literally 10 minutes, which was my only contact with the organization). Her response will dictate how far I go with this.

Regardless, this situation shows a complete lack of integrity in the name of fundraising. It is an example of what should NOT be done to raise money in tough times. Listing the names of supporters can be a key tactic in non-profit communications. So, names must be used judiciously and accurately.

Non-profits are valuable in every community across the country. Many of their missions are more relevant now than ever before. We have several non-profits at Tanner Friedman and we value our relationship with each of them – it is privilege to communicate their missions. I serve on governance or advisory boards for for non-profits and, often, my work with them can highlight my days.

That’s why this is so troubling. Hopefully, it won’t turn off those who were burned from volunteering or contributing to non-profits in other ways. Hopefully, this is an isolated incident. But stay tuned in case I choose to reveal more.