Help me write my letter. (BWP was Provoked.)

*The contents of the letter below should be sufficient to explain the background. Long story short, I want to cancel my monthly payment to a charity, and I really want them to know WHY.

But I don’t want to sound whiny or shrewish while doing it, so feedback would be appreciated. The letter follows in the next post.



Medecins Sans Frontieres
Accounts Dept (Subscriptions)
PO Box 847
Dear Sir or Madam

In the past few months we have had the following interactions with your charity, which have convinced us that our donations would be better used elsewhere:

1. When we initially signed up, MSF wanted us to make a bigger monthly donation than we could afford. When I explained that our financial situation didn’t give us that kind of discretionary budget, I was told, in a doubtful tone, that it was ‘probably okay’, because ‘every little bit helps’.

To us, our donation was not a ‘little bit’. It was not trivial. This really should have been sufficient warning at the outset; any charity that can afford to trivialise $20 per month is clearly operating on a different level than the people it’s soliciting from.

2. About six months later, I received unsolicited email from a company which turned out to be associated with MSF, despite having been assured initially that my email address would never be given out.

MSF had given no indication that contact would be made by that client, and the first I knew of it was when the email appeared in my in-box with a secretive ‘we can’t tell you why we’re talking to you’ message and a hyperlink to an external web page.

I don’t know if your company is familiar with the concept of ‘phishing’, but emails like that should never be sent without explanation – if at all.

3. We continue to receive printed updates, despite having asked for all updates to be via email only. This is a clear waste of money, as well as being environmentally insensitive.

4. I was persistently called at home (almost daily, over a period of weeks). The caller spoke with my husband but wouldn’t give him any indication of what they wanted.

He kept advising them of my working hours, but it still took several weeks before anyone actually rang during my normal home time.

At that point, I was given a marketing spiel in which I was essentially told, “Hey, thanks for the money: now give us more.” Apparently, my monthly donation continues to be inadequate.

Well, Medecins Sans Frontieres, that’s the final straw. No More.

A few months ago, my husband lost his job. My permanent job is 2 days a week as an ASO2 Administrative Clerk; I’ve had to take on two extra jobs as a ‘casual’ employee just to try and make ends meet. Even so, we’re slowly bleeding money.

Despite our income being more than halved, we maintained our subscription to MSF; however, we have since decided that the money we provide, trivial as it is to your company, can be better applied to our own expenses.

I genuinely wish MSF well in the field, but I no longer wish to support a ‘charity’ which:

  • Harasses its donors to tell them they’re not paying enough.
  • Spends much of the money it earns on telemarketers and unsolicited printed newsletters
  • Generally operates its fundraising department in ways that are unacceptable (and borderline unethical) in any business, let alone a global charity

Please cancel our subscription, effective as of the next billing cycle.

Please also ensure that we are removed from your telemarketing contact lists and your postal advertising database.

Yours sincerely,
[BWP & Husband]

It’s a good letter. But.

It may make you feel better to write this letter to vent your feelings but will not otherwise do you any good. MSF will not come crawling back with an apology. They will not change their behavior. Given what you’ve been through, I would not spend the time to write the perfect letter. I don’t think they care. I would send them a one-line letter. Maybe even two words. :smiley:

If you are lucky, they will cancel your subscription and throw your letter away.

If you are unlucky, they will continue to charge your credit card and you will have to file an “unauthorized charge” report with the issuer.

Humm - I think it’s a nice mix of business and snottyness.

I would ship that bad boy off and expect about 27 phone calls from them trying to talk you out of leaving.

Actually, that’s the last thing I want. I want them to go away, never talk to me again, Do Not Darken My Doorstep… etc, etc. :smiley: Apologies are only acceptable if you’re genuinely contrite…and as you noted, they won’t change a single thing about their policies. At least, not on my account.

But I hope that if enough people get jack of it and write them similar notes, they might see a pattern of ‘hey, maybe we should stop telling our donors that they suck’ and ‘hey, maybe we should stop giving mixed messages about how much we need their money vs how much we can afford to spend ringing them daily, long-distance’.

Maybe. :slight_smile: A gal can hope, can’t she?

I sympatize with your situation, but it appears that BWP has no idea what it takes to run a nonprofit, do-good organization in the post-Bush American society. If you can’t seriously pledge $250 a month to your favorite non-profit, don’t bother. “Every little bit helps” means “little bit” is defined in hundreds of dollars. Twenty-five bucks a month is lost amid the licensing fees, banking fees and search engine bribes that must be paid just to be presented to today’s web-savvy mind. There was a tme when a few bucks a month to United Way made a difference. Not any more. Sorry.

Why are you giving them so much information about your life circumstances? It doesn’t really seem relevant to the complaints you have about their business practises. Remember you aren’t talking to an individual, you’re talking to a company - you aren’t going to make them feel guilty or sympathetic. Let them know what you dislike about their practises and move on; it isn’t personal to them, don’t let it be personal to you.

Then they should have a minimum donation amount, communicate it, and leave alone those whpo are too skint to afford it.

I completely agree that they’re acting badly, but I’d just like to add that MSF is one of the few charities that actually does excellent work in the field.

This bothers me. How many people seriously have $250/month to give to a charity? If 1000 people gave $20 per month, you’re saying that their collective $20,000 contribution means nothing?

Unless you’re saying Bush’s admin has affected charities worldwide, you should probably recheck her location and the addr of the charity.

Most of the people I know don’t have $250 a month to spend on anything after they’ve paid the mortgage, brought food, put petrol in the car, paid the bills, and maybe brought themselves a new CD or something. Maybe MSF has a lot of very wealthy patrons who make sizeable donations for the tax write-off they bring, perhaps?

I’ve never heard of an Australian charity basically saying “$20 a month isn’t worth bothering with”- they’re usually very grateful for any donations of any amount, even $2 or $3. AFAIK charities don’t pay bank fees or taxes or anything like that, so the only administration fees they incur should be the ones for paying the admin staff and that sort of thing, but I admit to not being an expert on how charities are operated or anything like that.

BWP’s letter is very good and exactly the sort of thing I’d be sending them if I were in her position, but with the change that I wouldn’t mention my personal circumstances; it’d basically be a polite, businesslike version of “If my $20 a month donation isn’t good enough then you can go fuck yourselves.”

Bites When Provoked, have you thought of getting in touch with the local paper or one of the current affair shows? The negative attention from “A Greedy Charity that tells hard-working Aussies their donations aren’t good enough for them and that they want more money”-type story or something is going to get them to pull their head in pretty bloody quickly.

The problem is that I respect the work MSF do; one of my wife’s relatives was closely involved with them in the field and they clearly do a lot of good- but at the same time it’s just not on to be telling someone who’s donating $20 a month they really can’t afford that their donation isn’t wanted because it’s not a large enough amount.

Thanks! Though I’ve never encountered a Doper yet who didn’t have ‘snotty’ down to a fine art - isn’t it part of the entry requirements? :wink:

This is a good point. I was hoping to get it across to them that hey, some people are already doing the best they can do … but you (and others) are right in the assessment that frankly, my dear, they won’t give a damn.

I’ll take that bit out.

I’ve always found the same thing; I’ve never encountered that kind of attitude from a charity before!

That’s eerily similar to the first draft of my letter. :smiley:

Tempting as that is, I can’t stand those shows. They’d probably call me a ‘Little Aussie Battler’, and then I’d have to kill them.

Also, much as I’m aggravated by their business practice, I really respect their field work and don’t want to do anything that’d encourage other people to reconsider their donations.

This is why I’ve waited almost a month to make this decision. I really respect what MSF do, and I don’t want to withdraw my financial support just because their administration sucks… but it’s been a couple of weeks and I’m still really, really ticked about that last (series of) phone call(s). It was very much the straw that broke the camel’s back.

I still want to donate to a worthy charity as best I can: time to look into donation options for Cystic Fibrosis or the Animal Welfare League, I guess!

Both excellent points. I hate those shows too, but the fact they exist does help keep some people and organisations in line, IMHO. People do pay a surprising amount of attention to them, too- At my previous job we certainly noticed our extended warranty sales would tank for a month or so after they did a “Extended warranties are a rip-off that won’t be honoured and the companies that sell them kick a puppy every time you buy one!” type story.

Who you donate to is a personal choice, of course, but how about the Red Cross? They do similar work to MSF and much more, and I know they’re grateful for any donations that they receive.

FWIW, I have a lot of time for the Salvation Army; they do excellent works with the homeless and battered women, so I try and make sure I’ve got a few dollars for them when they come knocking.

After seeing the trainwreck that a good friend’s marriage is rapidly turning into, the Smith Family are another charity that I hear good things about that I might try and find some money for during their next appeal as well.

It’s an otherwise good letter, but I’d leave out the part about your current financial problems.

That said, MSF has probably engaged the services of an outside company to solicit donations. What I’d do is copy MSF itself on the letter so they know what that company is up to. In the US, some, if not all, of those practices are unethical, and charities themselves need to be aware of outside solicitors that do business with donors that way. (I’d dig up a cite but I don’t feel like going through boxes of crap to find it.)

The address for MSF in Australia is: PO Box 847, Broadway NSW 2007 Australia.


I’m with MsRobyn. I’ve never had the slightest problem with MSF, and I’m not coughing up any $250 per year. I have to believe this is one of those outside companies that get a cut. Nobody actually handles anything themselves anymore – there’s always an outside company that “can do it better, more efficiently, and at less cost” than you can do it internally.

I think it’s an excellent letter - go send it. As a couple of others have said though, leave out the bit about your current situation.

I agree with everyone else - just leave out the personal finances bit and let 'er rip. I had a somewhat similar situation with a local charity (The Mustard Seed Ministry for homeless people) - I was happy to donate to them yearly, but I requested more than once that I not be solicited for more money than I was already giving. They ignored my requests to not be treated as a walking wallet, and now they get nothing from me, and they know why (although I’m sure they don’t care).

But aren’t they all like that? We get a LOT of charity solicitations – my wife is particularly active in several causes – and as far as I can tell the modern business model is to sell your address to other charities, constantly ask for more money, mail you unwanted stuff, and just generally put the hammer down and squeeze you for cash.

The Obama campaign is, if possible, the most offensive about this – I get several phone calls a week asking for more money and saying “it’s crucial” that we give all we can – to the richest campaign in the history of politics, which is rolling in money and comfortably leading its opposition in funding, organizational strength, and in the polls. To me that says – since it’ll never get any BETTER than that – that there will NEVER come a time when they’ll slack off squeezing us for money.

I’m sure it’s not personal, it’s just their Total War business model.


I’d say the letter is fine, but needs to be shorter.