I have worked for several non-profit organizations, and I understand what goes on behind the scenes in marketing to specific audiences. A worthwhile, legitimate organization can bring in funds using the same tactics as a questionable one. A worthwhile, legitimate organization targets the same audience(s) as the questionable. It is the elderly audience — and the tactics used to capture that audience — I want to address.
The elderly, captive in their homes with infirmities due to age or illness, often turn to television as a companion, which provides, as you well know, both good programming and bad programming. I know of several families whose spiritual education and enjoyment includes evangelical programming 24/7. When they are not watching televangelists, they are watching DVDs they received from televangelists. And any guest or relative visiting in their homes is coaxed, if not forced, into watching along, too.
There is nothing wrong with tuning in to listen to and watch your favorite preacher, gospel singer or spiritual mentor; however, there is everything wrong when the rhetoric replaces reason, tramples logic and tampers with emotions that result in automatic, monthly credit card and/or bank account deductions. I've seen this happen to good people wanting to help spread the Gospel, but what I fear may be happening is a large percentage of the donations are covering "administrative" costs. In light of that, several questions should be considered.
- How often does the ministry or organization you support provide a breakdown of incoming funds, showing how the funds are distributed?
- Do you know the names of people, or groups of people, receiving direct help from contributions you've made?
- Does the televangelist who you financially support receive direct monetary compensation or political support from your donations?
- For your generous donations, are you promised wealth and good health packaged with the hardback and accompanying set of eight, teaching CDs you receive by mail?
This television tactic reminds me of elixir-toting salesmen decades ago, as they offered promises of health and good fortune for a small fee. Unfortunately, and too often, a small fee can wind up depleting the savings of hardworking retirees, so I have several alternative suggestions.
Give to research for battling diseases, give to your local church, give to missionaries you know, give to those who can't afford food, health care or housing. Give with awareness that your contributions are actually going to those you want to help.