Recent news of the Charity Conman “ … who posed as a cancer patient and scammed millions of dollars from a wealthy woman has been jailed for four years and eight months.” 

How he went about swindling his victim should surely raise awareness of the risks and ways in which charities can mitigate it. For donors it sends a clear message that they must make sure they know who they are dealing with; that they should watch for emotive stories, stories that pull at heartstrings. 

I’ve previously written about “Do low lifes damage the credibility of charities? And When Disaster Strikes – Opportunists hoping to raise awareness of what risks charities can face when appealing for funding, what risks too that donors can face when unscrupulous people try and seize an opportunity to play on the emotions of others. 

“Tuba” as some people knew him, played on the emotions of his victim, he played the use that he had lost everything and that his life was in the balance. There’s probably many people reading this who have seen or heard of similar ‘tricks’ being used to con money out of the unsuspecting. 

You’ve no doubt seen letters, or received phone calls asking for your help for some cause or another; often the letter or call is structured in a way as to pull on the heartstrings of the recipient. Using phrases such as “we really need your help, without it little Samantha may miss out …” or, “it’s only with the help of people like you that children like Emma can get a chance to …” 

When a child’s name is used it almost always plants mental image in the mind, when we talk of a serious health issue it does the same, often too bringing to mind a friend or family member who may be or have been in a similar situation. 

For charities some clear lines should be drawn between being factual, putting the case, the need to for support and playing on the emotions of others. Emotion sells, there’s no denying it, but lets not go overboard with it. 

For donors, when you feel you’re being ‘sucked’ in, that your emotions are being played with – perhaps it’s time to take a step back, take a breath and think before pulling out the credit card or cheque book. 

Charities and those working in the sector, must do checks on employees, you can’t afford to have someone with bad intentions who could bring your organisation into disrupt, remember people see one charity as representative of the sector; so your name being tarnished has the potential to tarnish the sector as a whole. 

Donors, remember to ask questions like, who are you? How do I know this is genuine? Where does the money go? But above all don’t let emotive language or spin effect your reason for giving – know why you’re giving.

 

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