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Why is an organization that saves trees cutting down so many to raise money? Stock image
Ask Mr. MarketingColumns

There’s a tree in my mailbox

With the new year came the Arbor Day Foundation’s annual tree survey — 2.4 ounces of paper asking questions like, “Have you ever climbed a tree?”

This 10-by-14-inch mailer contained a survey, personalized bookmarks, return address labels, certificate of appreciation, calendar, solicitation letter, request to be included in my will and a list of three “free” gifts I’ll get by making a donation.

Interestingly, only half the mailer was printed on recycled paper using water-based ink. 

The foundation’s website proclaims “… we plan to answer some of humanity’s greatest challenges by planting millions of trees.”

But consider this:

1) ADF has 1,000,000 members. Assume they’d like to increase their membership 10%.

2) Since 5% of U.S. households respond to this kind of mailer, ADF sends out 2,000,000 mailers to get 100,000 responses.

3) This mailer weighed 65 grams. The average tree generates 71,802 grams of paper. Thus one tree makes 1,105 of these mailers. Subtract the 17% printing waste factor to get 917.

4) Thus even with half the mailer being recycled, 1,091 trees were needed to produce this mailing.

But why is an organization that saves trees cutting down 1,091 trees to raise money to help trees?

Let’s be clear: I fully support the ADF’s principles. Planting and supporting trees are noble causes and, arguably, the basis of our planet’s survival.

But killing so many trees to get this message out is counterproductive and, at best, hypocritical.

True, if everything had been printed on recycled paper, I’d keep my big flapper shut. But I find myself wondering if the money I’d be donating would encourage ADF to cut down MORE trees.

My request for comment went unanswered.

And, given that there are so many other worthy groups vying for my attention, perhaps there’s someone more true to their cause to whom I want to contribute instead.

Whatever type of organization you operate, there’s a lesson to learn here. Your prospective customers are paying attention to everything you do. If they suspect you’re being disingenuous, you’re going to lose them until you clean up your act.

Meaning you’ll have to hustle a LOT more to generate new business. And remember (especially in a rocky economy) that new customers don’t grow on trees.

With that said, I wish you a week of profitable marketing.

No trees are killed making our free monthly newsletter, askmrmarketing.com

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