tip to Janet.
For the past few years, the Pittsburgh branch of the American women’s health organisation Planned Parenthood has operated a Pledge-A-Picketer scheme. The idea is simple: when an anti-abortion group protests outside a clinic – as with the 40 Days For Life campaign currently drawing to a close in Britain…
Awww…. I thought I was the first to have this idea.
…Planned Parenthood invites supporters to sponsor the pro-lifers. The more protesters, the more cash. “We put a barometer in the front window that shows the picketers how much they’re helping us raise,” Rebecca Cavanaugh, a spokesperson, told me. The initiative, which isn’t unique to Pittsburgh, seems to grab people’s imaginations: first-time donors sometimes walk in off the street, Cavanaugh said, not just because they support the cause, but because they want to get back at the annoying demonstrators blocking the city’s sidewalks. “Most of our fundraising is not so fun,” she said. “We’re mainly talking about the importance of cervical cancer screening and things like that. Whereas this is a little snarky. People respond to that, for better or worse.”
Snark is good!
Pledge-A-Picket is a neat example of “reverse-incentive” fundraising, something that should arguably play a far bigger role in charity. Helping people financially because you’re a nice person is wonderful, of course. But all fundraisers know the risks of “compassion fatigue”; Planned Parenthood’s experiences suggest that there’s an extra well of money to be tapped if you can harness people’s schadenfreude instead. I’m proud to say I care deeply about reproductive rights; I’m rather less proud to confess that I enjoy the idea of people who oppose them feeling irritated or confused. But it’s the case all the same, I’m afraid. Plenty of psychological research testifies to the fact that we partly enjoy having enemies; they clarify the world for us, and bolster our egos. So why not channel this less-than-admirable truth to good ends?