DATE: 11/18/2004 11:22:00 AM
The Target Kefuffle - Many in the blogsophere are angry at Target for their policy of denying the Salvation Army the chance to place the holiday kettles in front of the stores. I wrote a post on the subject earlier this month. James Lileks has a good answer and some perspective on the debate in today's Bleat.
At the center of this debate is the question of local funding versus national funding. There are some national chains who fund local charities, and some that fund only national organizations. People tend to look more kindly on those businesses that allocate some funds locally. In my real job, I work as a marketing/public relations/development manager. Much of my time is spent soliciting donations or writing grants. I've seen and have been frustrated at times by the local versus national giving guidelines at many companies.
People in the Salvation Army debate are lionizing a large national corporation based in Arkansas for allowing the Army to place kettles in front of stores, saying it shows the generosity of that corporation. In reality, the retailer in question puts most of its money into the Children's Miracle Network and rations time for the Salvation Army, squeezing them in beside local sports teams and other charities. Although they're allowing the Salvation Army to solicit, they are limiting the time given and putting the charity on the same playing field as kids wanting to travel for their soccer team.
For the record, I've found the Salvation Army much less confrontational than the teenagers, who ask customers entering the store whether they'd like to donate. Such an approach may work, but it's annoying and I don't feel like being accosted when entering a store. The Salvation Army doesn't do that - it just puts the kettle out there and lets customers make that decision. Given that this time of year is the Salvation Army's big fundraising push, I think they should be given priority over other charities.
As Lileks says, though, if you make your shopping decisions based on that corporation's generosity in other areas, you could go crazy. If I choose not to shop at Target, I will be hurting St. Jude's Children's Museum. Personally, I don't tend to make my shopping decisions based on what that corporation does outside of the store. I once worked at the Arkasas-based retailer, and found it to be an awful place to work. When I go into the store now, I find it crowded, understaffed and messy. It's an unpleasant place to shop. Target, for now, is cleaner and less crowded, partially because the designers seem to understand how to physically put a store together. The aisles are wider and less crowded, making it feel as though there are fewer people shopping at any given time.
Of course, the store is new to the area, so this could change rather quickly once they've been here awhile. If so, I'll change my shopping habits accordingly. I still think Target, for PR and community-relations reasons, should change its policy on the Salvation Army. It's a stupid policy that hurts them more than it helps. In the end, though, if you want to give to the Salvation Army, there are other ways to do it. I know this is a slight change from the stridency of my first post on the subject, but I just felt some context and moderation was necessary.