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Tis the Season: Donating Valuables With Out Touching Your Wallet
As we approach the holidays a lot of Americans are worried about how they're going to make it through. They are wondering how they're going to get the new electronic gadget Johnny wants, they're even more worried they will not be able to find that designer wallet Susie is asking for. Even worse they have no idea how they are going to pay for any of it. People are getting scared and it is obvious why. One only needs to open the paper to see stories about financial institutions going out of business, others taking extravagant corporate retreats on taxpayers' dime...again. There are horror stories about people losing their homes, losing their hopes for the future, losing everything.
At this time of year everyone is looking for a little extra cash to spring for the bigger, better, brighter products. We do not want to just keep up with Jones', we want to outshine them in ways they will never be able to top. This year, however, if you have been keeping up with the Dow Jones you may have noticed that just keeping your job is something of a holiday miracle.
That extra change you once had to throw in the Salvation Army tub now gets saved to fill your gas tank. The extra toy you would have once given to the toy drive at your child's school is now being wrapped and placed under your own tree, because the idea of money for extra is foreign. That coat you were going to donate to your employers coat drive is now the coat you slip onto your shoulders everyday because buying something new this season just is not an option.
Lets face it, most Americans need every cent they have earned this year and its just not feasible to make their normal monetary donations to nonprofit organizations. Most can not spend the extra cash on an Angel Tree family when they have their own family to worry about. Its obvious that times are tough, but it is imperative to remember the needy even in these economically troubling times.
Speaking as someone who has been active with nonprofit organizations for ten years as a volunteer and as an employee I know that the push to raise, raise, raise is strong. A lot of people are hoping to find ways to help others directly and have some concern about the spending habits of larger organizations. Nonprofits are a business, they have administrative costs to cover. Some will worry that making a donation to an organization is actually just paying some ones salary, or paying for some shiny marketing campaign they plan to launch next year. I have to say that it is true that some of the money raised will go to running the organization and if you are not comfortable with that then fore go mailing in money and instead ask if they need some help at their next event or volunteers to make their day to day operations run more smoothly.
A helping hand is so much more than raising a pen and writing a check, try to help through action this year. Try volunteering at local homeless shelters and soup kitchens, donate gently used items such as blankets, coats, clothings, and toys to the Salvation Army. Get involved in a mentoring program such as the Big Brothers and Big Sisters of America, or look around your own neighborhood for families or individuals who could benefit from a helping hand.
When you are out shopping this year take some time and research the retailers you plan to shop with. Look into which stores are sending portions of their profits along to charity organizations and what products go to benefit important causes. See if the grocer you're buying your holiday meal supplies from donate to shelters and food drives. You're going to be shopping anyway, why not go to the places that recognize the importance of charity.
With just a little research and some effort every one can give back this holiday season and help those who are less fortunate. Remember if times are difficult for you imagine what its like for those who were all ready down on their luck. Despite these dreary economic times, humanity and good will are always free and easy to give away, and if we are very lucky, easy to have returned when its needed.
Audience and Placement
The above document is intended to be an editorial styled article of persuasion that could be ran in any local newspaper, news magazine, or web-zine. It would be most well place in metro or neighborhood themed sections of any of these types of publications. While it is information that could be pertinent to any American citizen it is generally aimed most specifically at adults with families they support. It is especially targeted at, but not limited to, those who have been able to be active philanthropically in the past but may find themselves less able to do so this year due to economic hardship.
Defense of Persuasion
The purpose of this editorial is to encourage people to give back to their communities despite current economic struggles. It acknowledges that the current fiscal state of most Americans makes it very difficult to do so in a monetary manner. In the place of financial contributions it encourages readers to help the needy through decisive actions and informed shopping decisions. In its final statement it reminds the reader that giving back when one can is important because there is no guarantee the individual reading the piece will not need the same kind of help in the future.
The style of the article is best suited for newspaper publication, in one of the lower more local divisions of the paper. It contains no scientific data, no statistics or factual statements to convince the reader. It relies heavily on the opinion of the writer, current events in the news, and the presumed emotional state of the reader given the status of the economy and the time of year that it would be printed during.
The word choice in this piece is very strategic as well. Considering the time of the year that it has been written and would be ran it would have been very easy to fall back on the concept of Christmas. Instead there was a decision made to leave out the name of any specific cultural Holiday and instead refers to them all as a season unto themselves. This is a choice made obviously to keep from neglecting any alternative cultural practices that might be present in the life of the receiver. Not every American celebrates Christmas, and even those who celebrate Christmas do so in ways specific to their own friends and family. By avoiding naming any specific holiday it may also keep from drawing on specific negative emotions a reader may associate with a holiday that might encourages to stop reading the piece prematurely.
When receiving the message presented in this editorial the reader is first granted a bit of sympathy for where they currently find themselves given the economic crisis in the United States finds itself in. The piece acknowledges the fear and nervousness that abounds and implies that the message sender understands and empathizes with those reading the piece. This is a move intended to allow the sender to be perceived by the receiver in a friendly and positive light. It is intentionally done to create a bond with the reader that makes them feel obligated to continue reading. It makes the reader more open to the cause because the message is being sent in a manner that is sympathetic to their own plight. Most people are in a rough financial situation and this piece acknowledges that before delivering its main purpose which is to encourage its readers to find ways to be philanthropically active that do not involve monetary donations.
The article hopes to encourage readers to accept its message through a predominately pathos-driven appeal although it is anchored by a call to logically driven action. The strength of the piece comes from the memories and emotions it draws from the receiver, especially those that relate to the warm and fuzzy feelings most people get around the holidays. It is a strategically timed article that will be received just as the waves of holiday shopping and celebrating get started. This is a time of year that people who do not normally read the paper on a daily basis will be combing every section to locate every sales ad and coupon available. This is something that can increase the number of individuals who take notice of the message. Because people are generally in a more giving mood at this time of year the subject may catch their eye especially because it acknowledges that there are financial issues that may stop regular donors and new donors alike from being able to give their money away.
After using emotion to convince the reader that they want to become active in their communities the article turns to the reader's logical side to encourage them to action. Keeping in mind a definite lack of extra money for the average American citizen the piece offers ways that a person can donate with out spending anything. If makes an appeal for individuals to give of their time to worthwhile causes and organizations. It also remind people that they do not even have to give up free time to give back by encouraging them to become more aware of the retailer locations they stop at. If both JC Pennys and Macy's have the sweater your mother wants for Christmas for the same price why not let your socially conscious side make the decision for you? If Macy's is willing to donate five percent of the profit on that sweater to the American Heart Association why not go pick it up there as opposed to Penny's who might just be taking the whole profit for their own bottom line. This seems to be the kind of thinking that the sender of this message would be in support of.
The article then moves back to emotional appeals this time in a vaguely sinister way. It does not come out and say anything as brash as "watch out you're next" but it does imply that helping the homeless today is important because you could be the homeless one tomorrow. One could make the case that this is questionable in terms of ethics, however it is a very real possibility given the current landscape of American society. Its scary but most readers will recognize the truth in this statement. Besides the sender of the message probably encourages the concept in a Golden Rule manner by reminding the reader to help the needy because they would hope for the same thing should they fall on hard times.
Piggybacking on the pieces use of pathos and logos it is important to note that the writer tries to establish themselves as an authority on nonprofit organizations by pointing out their ten years of experience working with organizations such as the ones mentioned in other parts of the piece. Source credibility can be big when trying to persuade and individual, it makes recievers more comfortable accepting the case you are making as true. In this case the sender is giving the receiver a bit of inside scoop on how charity groups and nonprofit organizations work to verify that they know how it is. The writer does not mention what organizations they have experience with by name and this is most likely an intentional choice because they do not want the readers to think that they are pushing a specific nonprofit or charity but encouraging the audience to identify one they are interested in helping.
Interestingly enough this piece stops short of naming any specific stores though it encourages the audience to become socially aware of where they are shopping. This may also be a strategic choice meant to keep from singling out any specific group of people who may be frequent shoppers of one department store or another, the same is true for those who may be employed by one of these retailers. It would alienate part of the audience to praise a competitor for its social consciousness over another store that focuses more on profit. It also keeps from alienating readers by socioeconomic levels. For some readers this might mean deciding whether to go to Von Maur or Bloomingdales, for others it may mean the choosing between Family Dollar and Dollar General. It may also be advantageous as it provides an outline of a plan to donate. It will encourage further thoughts on the subject as the receiver starts to wonder about the stores they choose to shop at as opposed to ones that the writer could have put in place.
The writer did choose to list a few organizations, such as Big Brothers, Big Sisters of America that the receivers could get involved with. This is also strategic because it is not something that alienates instead it gives the receiver a launching pad of sorts. Its very possible that some of those that read this editorial will have considered getting active in their community before but maybe they just were not sure what they could do. By listing a few options it may encourage the reader to start looking into what an organization does and how they can get involved. The writer was also careful to point out that the reader may not need to look any further than those in their own neighborhood who might need help at this time of year.
The sender has encoded this message in a way that is just vague enough to pique the readers interest and that encourages them to fill in the blanks with their own thoughts. This keeps the piece from being something that could be summed up in happy holiday feelings. It does not shy away from the current hardships citizens of America currently face but it also does not allow them to scapegoat the responsibility they have to give help to those in need. It encourages elaboration by giving the reader something to think about as opposed to telling them what they should be doing.
Some would say that the piece would be strengthened by incorporating factoids about how much donations to nonprofits have dropped in the last year or other such items. However it is more likely that depressing figures that let the reader know popular organizations like The American Cancer Association are losing money could actually boomerang. If a receiver knows how truly bleak the picture is they may feel as though nothing they could do is enough. They may start to wonder why they should even bother trying. It would also be counterproductive because the point of the piece is to take the focus off of the numbers and put the focus on the ability a person has to help with out opening their checkbook.
The piece does limit itself to a specific time of year however the suggested actions it encourages the reader to take are not concepts that relate specifically to the holidays. Soup kitchens and homeless shelters need volunteers year round, children need mentors everyday. Most charitable retail locations keep up their initiatives through out every season. Getting involved and getting informed is not something that has to end with the holidays. It is, however, highly likely that this article alone will not be enough to encourage long running commitment and behavior change. It may however be helpful to place spot checking editorials once every few months to remind those holiday helpers that they could benefit the community year round. This article hopes to act as something of a spring board. Its intent is to get the reader involved in social causes, implicit in that is the hope that they will continue with this activity long after the end of Christmas,Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or the Winter Solstice. Of course even if it does not inspire long term behavior change there is always benefit to community involvement.
Messages about charity and giving could easily be rejected or ignored when most individuals are just trying to make ends meet. It is, after all counter to Maslow's hierarchy of needs to believe that an individual would sacrifice fulfilling his or her own needs for the sake of others. In this case it is unlikely that a person would spend money that could provide for their family and themselves on strangers even if it is Christmas time. However this piece circumvents that problem by pointing out that there is no need to sacrifice in order to do good. It also encourages the receiver to think beyond basic needs, beyond food and shelter. While it recognizes the needed for these things by encouraging readers to work in homeless shelters and soup kitchens it also points out the importance of the need for belonging and esteem by encouraging them to become active in mentoring programs. In fact this piece may even be a call to the receiver to venture into the realm of self-transcendence, a place where the individual recognizes their ability to think beyond the self. This is the area where we as humans connect to something beyond the ego, to reach out to others and realize the importance of helping them reach their maximum potential.
This is a strong piece of persuasion because it presents and open and honest message that is wide reaching and equal opportunity. It has a target audience but is not limited to any specific individuals or those possessing a skill set. It is a piece meant to encourage action that will benefit the whole of society and it does so in a clear but easy to comprehend manner. It is strong enough to motivate a reader to thinking about something, in this case charity, in a different way. Its intent is to get the ball rolling in hopes that the reader will find inspiration to continue in the community participation it suggests and the consumer awareness it encourages.