Sunday, May 2, 2010

Mysterious charity direct mail from Children 1st

I had a bit of a blast from the past this week when I received a redirected direct mail shot from the charity Children 1st which had been delivered to an old address. Addressed to "Dear Children 1st Loyal Supporter" it appears that they are facing a funding deficit of £1M this year.

This is not surprising given all the local authority funding cuts, and the fact that Children 1st is always in an embattled position against its English equivalent the NSPCC. The NSPCC increasingly expanding its fundraising operations in Scotland (where it provides apparently no services other than Childline which was a separate charity with its own respected fundraising department in Glasgow prior to being taken over by the NSPCC).

However, thats not the mystery. You see I am not a loyal Children 1st supporter at all. Way back in 1994 I was working closely with a fundraising consultant called James Tysoe who had run the Edinburgh Sick Kids appeal. He hired me to work on a project with him at the youth charity Fairbridge and from there I went to work on the relaunch of the RSSPCC as Children 1st. It was actually quite an unhappy time and we had a serious falling out, which I am glad to say we patched up later on. Part of my job at Children 1st was working on the installation of a fundraising database system called ALMS. In common with many projects I have worked on I put myself in the database as a test entry. There are two reasons for doing this. It gives you an entry you can play with without the risk of losing real donor data and it gives you a check on the delivery of direct mail: if you don't receive a copy of each mailing at home then you can investigate the delivery problem as it might be more widespread.

Since 1994 I have received very few mailings from them. A few at the time of the initial campaign, but maybe only one since then and I think I sent them a donation as a result, but that's probably more than ten years ago, until this one arrived totally out of the blue. Its an interesting story. Now I need to write to them and make sure they don't send me any more.

An aside:
An additional observation about the mailing is that the supplied freepost envelope says on it "no stamp needed butusing one will save our costs". This actually isn't true unless you also obliterate the FREEPOST RSGE-ZGBB-XXXX line, unless Children 1st have managed to get some sort of special arrangement with the Royal Mail. I was surprised they were not using the fractionally more epensive freepost service which does not require that code line.