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Valentine’s Day? Donor love? Be over it…!

=mc Director Bernard Ross blogs on which charities are deserving all the love, and which are pushing donors away this Valentine’s Day.

I hate Valentine’s Day.

I mean I can live with the schmaltzy overpriced commercial nonsense: genetically modified, scentless roses at £5 a stem, cards that range from diabetes-causing sweetness to jaw-dropping crudeness, and opportunities to send and share Prosecco that might better serve as part of a salad dressing.

Nope, it’s the charity attempts to highjack Valentine’s Day that really turns me from Dr Jekyll to Mr Scrooge. You know what I mean: endless newspaper adverts with big eyed puppies asking for a friend; fulsome DRTV spots asking me to fall in love with the planet; and worst of all DM-ers sending emails telling me how much my charity cares for me, or at least my direct debit.

Charity valentine's day campaigns

OK some are not so terrible. So if I am going to buy flowers as a Valentine’s Day gift, and my squeeze of choice isn’t content with the garage forecourt 2 for 1 daffodil bunch offer, then I guess fulfilment through CRUK is not a bad way.

CRUK Valentine's day campaign

But some people take donor love too far.

Kern Wildenthal, retired last year as President of the Children’s Medical Centre in Dallas. Previously he was at UT Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas until 2008. While there he raised $2B+ of gifts. Impressive you might think. But he did show amazing levels of love. He would, of course, send flowers on Valentine’s Day to big donors.

But for him donor love was not just a once a year thing. He loved so much he:

  • invited potential donors to private dinners with expensive wine – spending around $80,000 a year on classy tipples
  • offered high value donors priority for treatment at the clinics and hospitals of the Medical Center – and a private 24/7 line to call for appointments.

His largest donor received an $11,000 gift he bought from Tiffany. OK it was for a $10M donation, but maybe that’s still taking reciprocity too far.

In truth the only charity Valentines I like are the ones that work as a personal version of what has latterly been called rage fundraising – combined gift/donations that appeal to the lovelorn or scorned. Every year Bronx Zoo offer a great deal for revenge-hungry Valentine’s Day lovers. (Keen to take advantage? Try BUT act today…50% sold out as the screengrab below shows.) For a small price, you can adopt a hissing cockroach in the name of a current or soon-to-be ex. (The zoo is clear this is not just a novel but also a satisfying way to dump someone.)

Bronx Zoo Valentine's Day campaign

Last year their sister zoo in San Francisco – below – didn’t step away from engaging post-romance prose worthy of the best Hallmark card on their website. ‘Fallen prey to love’s cruel sting? Consider adopting the giant hairy scorpion, the largest in North America, for an unsuspecting victim,’ the scorpion’s adoption page states. Combining empathy and education, it goes on to say: ‘Much like your low-life ex, they are usually found in and around low-elevation valleys, where they dig elaborate burrows or “caves.”’

Theirs were not cheap and cheerful offerings. Prices ranged from $25 to $1,000 – with all donations benefiting the Zoo. Sadly, even the highest level option didn’t include a real creature. Instead you got an adoption certificate and either, a stuffed-toy scorpion or a heart-shaped box filled with plastic cockroaches. Sounds like a perfect night in. And why not add a bottle of chilled Schedenfreude for yourself as you click ‘buy?’ This year, sadly, they have gone more old school adding slightly cuter offerings of monkeys, tigers, penguins.

San Francisco Zoo Valentine's Day campaign

If it’s not revenge you’re after and you simply want put your broken heart to good use, then I recommend your local charity shop as a place to offload unloved or unwanted gifts that remind you of your once true love.

If you donate to US thrift – aka charity – shops you can even get some benefits. Your ex’s items will get you a rather fetching sticker to wear, a receipt, and a tax write-off: a tax-efficient a win-win revenge. (Well, except for the ex and the revenue service maybe.)

Goodwill Valentine's Day campaign

Donate your cheating ex’s clothing to Goodwill. A campaign by RSE.

If you donate to US thrift – aka charity – shops you can even get some benefits. Your ex’s items will get you a rather fetching sticker to wear, a receipt, and a tax write-off: a tax- efficient a win-win revenge. (Well, except for the ex and the revenue service maybe.)

Donate your Heartbreak Goodwill campaign

The Valentine’s day campaign this year hopes to build on last year’s success of the “Donate your Heartbreak” website. Donations made to that campaign include a man’s Tiffany Ring sold for $139; a pearl necklace with a silver and garnet heart pendant for $125; and a pair of vintage Chanel earrings for $125.

Thinking there’s a gap in the market for one of our more adventurous charities here. This could be the next big thing you’re always looking for. Until then roll on February 15th!

Bernard Ross is also Director of The National Arts Fundraising School – the leading UK fundraising training programme for the arts & culture sector. 

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Bernard Ross

About Bernard Ross

Bernard is an internationally regarded expert in strategic thinking, organisational change and personal effectiveness. He works in Europe, USA, Africa and South America. His assignments have involved a wide range...