How the Red Cross lost me

An open letter to the director of the Red Cross in Denmark.

Dear Anders Ladekarl,

This Friday morning I received a phone call from a gentleman who presented himself as a fundraiser with your organization.

The fundraiser's business, apart from delivering a spiel about your organization's work in Syria (no doubt laudable, though I confess to not listening too closely), was to suggest that instead of the largish bulk donations I've been making abound Christmastime for the past few years, I should set up a fixed monthly donation drawn by direct debit. He explained that doing so would allow you to budget with less uncertainty, ultimately making more efficient use of my money.

These arguments are valid and persuasive. Following them would lose me the warm buzz of deciding to donate each year, writing a large number on a transfer form, et cetera. However, since this feel-good derives from the fact that good is being done, deliberately donating in an inefficient way in an attempt to maximize the feel-good per krone spent would be self-defeating.

So that more or less settles the matter – except for the fact that I have a firm principle never to make any monetary decisions during an unsolicited phone call. I like to think that I'd be able to see through a phone scam immediately as it happens, but no doubt so do people who actually fall victim to scammers, so I play it safe nonetheless. In retrospect, my caller was probably not a scammer, since he knew details about my donation history that are not generally available – but again, I don't trust my ability to make such determinations in the heat of the moment, and anyway a principle's a principle.

And it proved extremely hard to explain this policy to the fundraiser in a way he would accept. He just kept going on and on and on, pleading and begging for a commitment here and now. This even though I repeatedly explained that I was not going to make any immediate decisions in any circumstances. In the end I only got him to hang up by agreeing to a follow-up call the next day. I suppose I could just have hung up on him, but I don't like to be that rude unless I have definitely decided not to accept.

Now, this behavior is not one I want to reward. On the other hand, it wouldn't be fair to penalize the distressed people of the world for the faults of one guilt-peddling telemarketer. What to do, what to do?

This is what I've decided: I have now set up a monthly direct deposit whose yearly total covers what I usually give and then some. It goes to [the competing charity] DanChurchAid. My previous donations to them have been rewarded with a nice thank-you form letter and a blessed absence of rude phone calls. Time will tell whether that extends to recurring donors too, but I have faith in them.

Unfortunately I didn't catch the name of the fundraiser who called me, but I trust your computer systems can identify him for you, should you want to congratulate him on a job well done.

Sincerely yours,

Henning Makholm

P.S. Please stop sending me your magazine.

(By the way, the follow-up call never happened – and now it's past midnight on the next day).


  1. Hello,
    I received the same phonecall fra Danish Red Cross, and reacted much the same way, i dont like (a part) of my money going to a callcenter which bugs/begs me for more.

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