A challenging message
On of the more challenging bumps in Greenpeace’s fundraising road is the fact that it has an intangible mission of sorts.
“We’re primarily an advocacy group, a campaigning group that doesn’t deliver sort of tangible things day to day like conserving land or anything like that, but we’re about positive change and standing up to abuse of the planet when governments and corporations are doing things that they shouldn’t,” Sherrington says.
Positive change, indeed. Over the years, Greenpeace has championed protection of Antarctica, ocean dumping of toxins, atmospheric nuclear testing, drift nets, commercial whaling and, most recently, protection of the Great Bear Rainforest in Canada.
Greenpeace also faces challenges in the current social and political climate in the United States, where there’s an increased focus on national security. Sherrington says this has limited the space, both physically and in people’s minds, for elements of protest and the organization has found itself at the sharp end of those limitations.
“We’ve been taken to court by Homeland Security, we’ve had an IRS audit that was politically motivated … ,” he says, adding that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security case was deemed without merit and thrown out of court by the judge, and Greenpeace passed the IRS audit with flying colors.
Regardless of these challenges, compromising its mission has never been an option for the organization, a quality that makes it even more of a diamond in the rough for its supporters.
“People love or hate Greenpeace,” Sherrington says. “[There’s] no point inviting people in with a soft message, only for them to leave if they don’t like the full picture when they realize it.”
While monthly giving represents the bulk of the organization’s contributed funds, it also runs a traditional direct-mail program and has a large file of regular donors and one-time givers. Direct-mail packages include petition actions and asks, and they present current conflicts unabashedly on the outer envelopes, with headlines such as “Japanese Whalers Are At It Again! Take Action NOW to Stop the Slaughter.”