Other relevant information: Relevance, evidently, is the key word here. To include a free pen or not quickly became a highly controversial question for fundraisers. From the donor's perspective, though, it was clearly never a good idea. It's patronising and gives an impression of wastefulness. Donors started to receive large numbers of these packs, each with a gratuitous free pen, which almost certainly caused lasting damage to the image of charities.
The logic behind these pens does seem rather dumb. A free gift may lead to a temporary blip in initial response, but is it in any way a good reason to support a cause? We don't think so. As fundraising is a long-term business, such a vacuous incentive is rather obviously not going to help charities find donors who will stick with the cause come what may.
But alongside an appropriate, intelligent and creative treatment such as Karin gave to this Amnesty pack, the inclusion of a pen was a masterstroke because it was so obviously and immediately relevant.
As far as we know, this was the first-ever direct-mail fundraising appeal in Ethiopia. Its story is a brilliant example not just of what can be achieved by some positive creative plagiarism, but also of how to explode the basic fallacy that is perhaps the most commonly held misconception among fundraisers everywhere — the one which has fundraisers saying, "That's a great idea for your country, but it'll never work here."
Target audience: Individuals
Origin: Ethiopia. July 1997
Summary/objectives: To find out if direct mail could be used to raise funds effectively in Ethiopia.
Background: Among the most unlikely of places on earth to find brilliant fundraising would surely be the beautiful but trouble-torn East African country of Ethiopia, home of many of the world's poorest people. But fundraising in Africa is developing fast, and a few years ago a young woman of Italian descent, Nadia Weber, working for the Ethiopian branch of the nonprofit Canadian Physicians for Aid and Relief and its Plant a Tree programme, attended a training workshop run by fundraising management consultant Bernard Ross. It was a lucky meeting for both as it gave Nadia an idea for innovative fundraising and gave Bernard what is undoubtedly one of the fundraising world's best case histories.