Letters from a Changemaker

In Consciousness by Gerald Koh

I’m sure you’ve seen letters from charitable or welfare organisations asking you to give to their good causes. International groups like UNICEF, Make-A-Wish Foundation, World Vision, the Red Cross or Salvation Army. Singaporean ones like the Community Chest, Singapore Children’s Society, MINDS, or the scandaled National Kidney Foundation. They’ve been around for a while now and we have faith that, with these established organisations, the resources they get go where they are needed.

Then there’s the new breed of charity: the social enterprise. Where what they give turns on the profit they make, or how much you spend with them. For every $x you buy, we give y% or $z to charity. Or one for one: buy one n and we’ll give one away. They write letters like this…


‘Asking a question is
embarrassing for a moment,
but not asking is
embarrassing for a lifetime.’

 
The protagonist in a Murakami book received that response when he needed to find a precious stone that would bring light to the shadow that surrounded his life. The next line in that story was ‘when you die, everything you know disappears’.

Not to be morbid but that’s true of both you and us.

That is why we write to you today. We ask you to support our pledge: to feed, clothe and educate [insert third world country] children for the next 2 years of their lives. We ask you to help us bring light into their lives. We know you do not know us and that our words are but words. But we ask because nothing worth doing is ever easy.

In 2014, we raised $2000 and provided stationery, toys and food supplies for the [insert charity organisation] in [insert city in chosen third world country]. The amount we raised in 3 weeks is somewhat small, but the difference it made was huge. The food supplies (such as rice and cooking oil) fed the little angels there for the next 2 and a half weeks. The stationery benefited the children’s education for as long as pages were empty and the ink ran blue.

It is now 2016, and we can and should make a bigger difference. We are selling t-shirts and putting $10 from every t-shirt directly towards these kids.

We want you to be a part of this wonderful effort. How? Pull on our t-shirt. Tell your world that you are part of helping someone live a better life and have hope for a kinder future. Ask the world within your reach to do the same.

It isn’t simple to ask this of you, but we do it because all of us can bring light into the lives of these little angels. We may someday diminish, but the good we’ll do, little by little, is forever.


Not bad right? It tells you that they are selling something, and it tugs at the heartstrings. If you don’t buy, those kids will be less well off. Won’t you have a heart? Buy and make their lives better? Won’t you?

Don’t get me wrong, the intention to help in this way is not bad. Mixing that intention with what is essentially a marketing tactic, that’s just quite devious. Credit must of course be given where it is due because some of these social enterprises may actually be doing good. Thing is, they send out their online mailers, post loads on social media or have guest articles on websites, and it feels too gimmicky. Their words seem too hopeful, too eager, too good to be true. Maybe it isn’t. But I can only imagine how their PR department sniggers at the unwritten words and implicit meanings their put-ourselves-out-there letters have when I read them.

This may well have been the first not for public viewing draft…


‘Asking a question is
embarrassing for a moment,
but not asking is
embarrassing for a lifetime.’

 
The protagonist in a Murakami book received that response when he needed to find a precious stone that would bring light to the shadow that surrounded his life. The next line in that story was ‘when you die, everything you know disappears’.

Not to be morbid but that’s true of both you and us (and your money).

That is why we write to you today. We ask you to support us by believing our pledge: to feed, clothe and educate [insert third world country with nice beaches and cheap booze] children for the next 2 years of their lives. We ask you to help us bring light into our lives. We know you do not know us and that our words are but words. But we ask because nothing worth doing is ever easy.

In 2014, we raised $2000 and provided stationery, toys and food supplies for the [insert hopeful sounding charity name] in [insert party city of chosen third world country]. The amount we raised in 3 weeks is somewhat small, but the difference it made was huge. The food supplies fed the little angels there for the next 2 and a half weeks. The stationery benefited the children’s education for as long as pages were empty and the ink ran blue. (It also let us go on holiday to [insert abovementioned city in chosen third world country] and party!).

It is now 2016, and you can and should make a bigger difference. We are selling t-shirts and putting [insert amount that looks significant and generous without making a loss/giving away all profits] from every t-shirt directly towards these kids.

We want you to be a part of this wonderful effort. How? Pull on our t-shirt. Tell your world that you are part of helping someone live a better life and have hope for a kinder future (we’re actually talking about ourselves here). Ask the world within your reach to do the same (ka-ching!).

It isn’t simple to ask this of you, but we do it because all of you can bring light into our lives (and maybe the lives of those little angels we gave money away to last time). You may someday diminish, but the good your money will do (for us), little by little, is forever.


I don’t know about you, but I’m thinking the advice given in Murakami’s book should probably be revised to:

Asking for money is
embarrassing for a moment,
but not asking is embarrassing
for as long as you need to ask.


About the Author
Gerald Koh

Gerald Koh

Gerald is an expert dilettante. He used to play in a band, run a recording studio, write about local sports, sell self-designed t-shirts and teach kids to fight fire and save lives. His latest sinking ship is proving he is not good enough for law school.

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