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The Kids Are Alright

June 23, 2009

Yesterday I received two vastly different fundraising appeal emails, one from the Genocide Intervention Network and one from the Save Darfur Coalition.  Thus far, SDAP has written very little about GI Net.  For the record, I think they’re good kids who mean well.  Note that the operative word here is kids.  Cereally, if Khartoum wanted to neutralize GI Net, all they’d need to do is send Herbert the Pervert from Family Guy to their offices with a bottle of Rohypnol dissolved in some Kool-Aid.  GI Net staff would need so much therapy afterward that they wouldn’t even have time to deal with Darfur.

“Mmm…come on over here boys.  I gotta magic potion that’ll make you forget all about that ol’ genocide.” (Planet Family Guy)

“Mmm…come on over here boys. I gotta magic potion that’ll make you forget all about that ol’ genocide.”

Due to their young age, they – if anyone – should be the one’s making mistakes in the language used in fundraising emails, right?  Not – say – SDC, whose senior staff consists of adults with years of experience running these sorts of operations?  You’d think that would be the case, but the reverse is actually true.  Here’s an email I got from SDC yesterday:

For Darfur, the rainy season is on its way.

Roads will be washed away in minutes, cutting the flow of aid to 2.7 million Darfuris who depend on it. Displacement camps will be deluged with standing water, leaving millions vulnerable to disease.

By June 30, we need 2,700 people—one for every 1,000 Darfuris living in these camps—to stand up and say: I will not let them be abandoned.

Click here and make a gift today—before the rainy season intensifies suffering for the people of Darfur. Give $50 before June 30 and we’ll send you a free one-of-a-kind Save Darfur mug as a gesture of thanks.

We’re at a new stage in this conflict. What once was the daily threat of armed gunmen terrorizing Darfuri villages has been replaced by despair and a daily struggle to survive in crowded, under-resourced refugee camps.

Khartoum’s expulsion of 13 organizations caused a 40% drop in humanitarian aid capacity. The heroic efforts of the remaining aid groups have succeeded in stockpiling as much food as possible before the rains hit. But medical supplies and sanitation services are largely lacking and, with the heightened risk of disease, there could be tragic consequences.

This is the Sudanese government’s design—to keep the world focused on managing the crisis instead of ending it.

We won’t let it happen. Together, our movement is demanding progress for long-term peace. We’re enlisting congressional allies to pressure the administration and world leaders. We’re meeting with administration officials to push for action. And most importantly, we’re bringing grassroots pressure to bear on our leaders and giving voice to the constituency of conscience.

But, if there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s that the Bashir regime will not relent on its own. Putting an end to the suffering will take an even greater commitment on our part.

Contribute to the Save Darfur Coalition today—and help us increase our efforts now, before the rainy season strikes Darfur. As soon as you send your gift, we’ll put your free mug in the mail.

The rainy season brings with it intense new challenges. It’s up to you and me to meet them head on. Thanks to the dedication you bring, I think we’re up to it. Exactly

Sincerely,

Suzie Armstrong
Save Darfur Coalition

While they don’t exactly make explicitly false claims about how the reader’s money will be spent, they definitely use some misleading language.  The short explanation of how their funds will be used is preceded by  paragraphs of humanitarian porn.  Their extensive description of the situation in the camps as a “daily struggle” coupled with their assertion that they “won’t let it happen” subtly implies that the reader’s donation will somehow be used to aid Darfuris on the ground.  The frequent mention of weather is interesting too.  Are we supposed to believe that SDC will end the rainy season?

Also note that they admit “We’re at a new stage in this conflict. What once was the daily threat of armed gunmen terrorizing Darfuri villages has been replaced by despair and a daily struggle to survive in crowded, under-resourced refugee camps.”  This Grationesque description of events is in direct contrast to what many of SDC’s core activist leaders are saying.  In fact, many are now calling for Gration’s removal precisely because he dared to imply that the crisis can no longer be called a genocide due to it’s waning intensity.  Will activists now scorn SDC the way they scorned Gration?

Now compare that email with the one sent the same day by GI Net:

Dear Friend:
I have two questions for you: Have you ever been so moved, you were
compelled to act boldly? How far are you willing to go to support the
anti-genocide movement?

Today, we are launching Genocide Intervention Network’s (GI-NET) Summer
Fundraising Challenge that applauds “People Moving the World.” Over
the next three months we will profile the inspiring stories of
individual acts of heroism in support of our work to prevent genocide.

Meet Johnny Strange. Johnny’s passion and commitment led him to take a
bold step to raise awareness about ending genocide.

On May 20, Johnny climbed to the top of Mt. Everest and delivered a
message, “Stop Genocide.” Following Everest, he climbed two more
peaks, becoming the youngest person to climb the Seven Summits.

After enduring harsh conditions and risking his life, Johnny sent an
email to his family and friends saying: “Never let anyone stifle your
dreams no matter the feat, for if you have the heart and the courage,
impossible is nothing.”

Johnny’s actions prove that nothing is impossible. We can stop
genocide. Call to Action:

Today, I am asking you to pledge a gift in support of GI-NET, and
others like Johnny, who are moving the world.

Help us meet our Summer Fundraising Challenge – through August 31st,
your contributions will be matched dollar for dollar, up to $15,000,
which will allow us to reach our goal of $30,000 overall. Please make
a gift today. Support our Challenge
<http://www.genocideintervention.net/page/movetheworld>

Mark Hanis
President
Genocide Intervention Network

Not terrible.  Sure, they profile a guy named Johnny Strange and somehow compare climbing Mt. Everest to ending genocide, but at least they’re honest.  They don’t go the misleading route, even though it may be the easy route, by implying that they will have a direct effect on the situation on the ground (even though they arguably have more of a right to make this claim than SDC does, as they help raise some funds for on-the-ground civilian protection).  Instead of appealing to the reader’s sense of pity by describing how horrible life is for Darfuris, they try to make the reader feel empowered to act by donating.  Not bad at all for a bunch of inexperienced preschoolers.

“After we get out picture taken, we’re gonna build a fort and then we’re gonna play Legos and then we’re gonna eat the Lunchables my mom packed for me and then my mom’s gonna pick us up and take us out for ice cream!” (Flickr)

“After we get our picture taken, we’re gonna build a fort and then we’re gonna play Legos and then we’re gonna eat the Lunchables my mom packed for me and then my mom’s gonna pick us up and take us out for ice cream!”

The saddest part?  SDC’s sexier, suffering-centric fundraising efforts will almost certainly be more successful.  That’s the price you pay for honesty, and I commend GI Net for their willingness to pay that price.  I wish others were so inclined.

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