Thinking Out Loud

January 27, 2015

Dr. David Jeremiah: King of Mailing List Abuse

David Jeremiah Turning Point“Please, make it stop; make it go away…”

I have no doctrinal issues with David Jeremiah. Although his radio and television programs are not broadcast at times I can listen or watch, as far as I know he is very mainstream Evangelical.

His fundraising mailings however are relentless.

If you are the type of person who really enjoys getting snail mail, this is the mailing list for you. As a family member told me last week, “I got another one from D.J.;” she has now stopped using the name since understanding is implicit, “That’s three this week.” She doesn’t have my knowledge of printing processes, paper stocks, bleeds, color separations, etc., but notes, “They’re all on glitzy paper.” Well, the letters are on standard bond, but yes, the enclosures are all on glossy stock, and color envelopes unique to each mailing.

Lots of trees gave their lives.

The latest pitch is for the Turning Point Bible Strong Partners program. For $25 per month you can choose from a couple of gifts or curiously, this option: “Please apply my entire gift to the needs of the ministry.” Those needs however would include printing and mailing more appeal letters.

This is a beast that requires constant feeding.

We’re not even going to get into the whole ResultsSource thing here. This is one of the big Christian publishing stories of 2014, where authors including Mark Driscoll — and David Jeremiah is also listed in reports — paid the consulting organization to ensure placement of their books on the New York Times Bestseller List.source

Turning Point’s 2012 Form 990 shows it as having nearly $40 million income that year.source There is a principle in business that once something reaches a critical mass it is capable of perpetuating itself on its reputation; other factors have to start working against it in order for it to start to experience decline (market changes, competition, economy, etc.). But with charities you have to keep asking, keep begging. You have to keep your name in front of the public. Each mail appeal produces a bump in donations.

For David Jeremiah, there seems to be no law of diminishing returns. The appeal letters keep coming.

In 2012 the ministry paid nearly $700K to In Service America which operates call centers. $400K to Majestic Productions which provides equipment for large arena-type events. Officers, directors and trustees received just under $900K while general salary and wage expenses were approx. $4.6M.  (Jeremiah is also pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church, an SBC church in California founded by Tim LaHaye.)

It’s a big ship, and it takes money to make money.

I wonder what God thinks of all this?

I don’t begrudge these people some fundraising or donor development costs. They believe in what they’re doing. While individually they would acknowledge the existence of similar ministries, corporately they are no doubt passionate about what they do. Just as Christians we believe we’ve got the hottest news on the rack, many organizations feel they’ve got a great distribution system for that news.

What you end up with is a group of creative people being paid to develop fundraising appeals because the ministry needs money in order to pay people to develop more fundraising appeals.

But when people are getting three mailings in a single week… That’s not right is it? It seems driven by an ambition that’s gone into overdrive, and historically, when that happens, often the organization experiences collapse.

The time to rethink all of this is now. It’s time to develop long-term sustainability that doesn’t involve the rape of so many trees, the theft of so much carbon. Otherwise, their ambition could lead them, like so many others, to find it impossible to sustain the minimum income they now require.

And that could be their turning point.


For an alternative view about fundraising costs, check out this 2013 TEDTalk.

October 13, 2009

Same Old Con Game

Filed under: theology — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:58 pm

clock spiralI take no pride in the fact that I get more junk e-mail in a day than some people get regular e-mail in a month.    It’s just a consequence of keeping the same address over a long period of time and having an address that’s “out there” in dozens of different contexts.

But I’m thankful that my ISP does such a good job of separating the e-sheep from the e-goats and placing the unwanted messages safely in quarantine.

Reading the subject headers of the junk mail reminds me of what it might be like to walk the downtown streets of Philadelphia or Miami or Baltimore back in the early part of the last century.

Guys in trench coats whispering, “Hey kid, wanna buy a watch?”

I get more solitications to buy timepieces than all other forms of e-junk combined.   It just seems so old.   I want to climb on a mountain and shout to all the junk mail senders, “Is that all ya got?”

You would think that with all the advances in technology, somebody would come up with some new thing that is worthy of all this presumed economic activity.   But no, the wristwatch remains the business opportunity of choice.

…And somewhere else on the planet a snake is telling someone to have a bite of the magic fruit.   “Hey kid, wanna be like God?   It will make you oh so very wise.”   Offering what is not his to give; promising what is not his to promise.”

Hopefully the discerning temptee can say, “This is so old.” And, “Is that all ya got.”

But the oldest con jobs don’t die easily.

What do you think are the biggest lures and temptations people face in 2009?

January 27, 2009

Stuff Christian Organizations Like: Creating Junk Mail

Filed under: Christianity, Church, missions, philanthropy — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:01 pm

return-to-senderFrom televangelists to missions agencies to … you name it!   Once you get on an organization’s mailing list it can be really difficult to get your name removed.    You tried not making a donation for five years and that didn’t work.   You moved three times, but they kept finding you.   Finally you faked your own death; but the magazines, heartwarming stories, devotional booklets, calendars, free books, etc., etc., etc., just kept coming.

Furthermore, any donation you ever made to the organization’s true mission work has now been totally undermined by the cost of all the materials they’ve sent you since.   Even if you make it really clear that, “This is a one-time gift;” or make it conditional, as in, “I’ll make a single donation if you promise not to add me to a solicitation list;” it doesn’t matter.   Once they have your name…

So here, as a public service we present:

How to get your name removed from an organization’s mailing list.

Step One:   First of all, the most important thing to remember is … oh, forget it, we don’t know either.

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The title of this post is a tribute to the popular blog, Stuff Christians Like, listed in our blogroll or use today’s link.

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