Monday, April 03, 2006

And They Cook, Too

Quite a number of food bloggers lent their recipes, names and good faith to a Blogger Cookbook Fundraiser recently.

When I first heard of it and realised that the recipient organisation was
Doctors Without Borders, I very willingly and quickly gave one of my recipes to the cause, along with many others bloggers. Not due to any altruistic higher calling but because someone in my family once benefited from their unflinching bravery and benevolence. Like the Salvation Army, they have come to symbolise the true meaning of charity and kindness to me and I was just grateful I could contribute in my small way.

I promptly forgot all about it till I received the notification that the cookbook was ready. Unfortunately, with the time difference and the short time frame given to contributors to purchase their copies of the cookbook, I did not enjoy the privilege of seeing the book before it was published. By the time I received the notification, the offer was over - unfortunately, the notification and the hours of the offer just happened during hours when people in Asia would be sleeping .... I know, how silly and inconsiderate of us!

I was a little disappointed that people outside of the US were not factored into the equation and actually, I thought it was rather ironic that an initiative for
Doctors Without Borders should face border issues! But I reckoned I could always purchase it at a later date.

Then I received another email seeking the contributors' help in putting out blogads and links to this fundraiser. I am notoriously unwilling to put ads on my blog or websites. I make it across the board because I do not like having to make a decision on or explain what ads I find acceptable or unacceptable to endorse. While I did not mind putting out a link and informing people about the
And They Cook, Too cookbook - something I had intended to do anyway - the fact that it was taken as a matter of course without prior consult took me aback.

So, I hereby fulfil my commitment by putting the link to the sites here. However, I will tell a story about why I am so leery of marketing charity events through commercial platforms - yes, I consider blogads a commercial platform.

A long time ago, I contributed a dance to a charity event organised by a then-friend. In fact, many other dancers contributed their time and helped spread the word to all their friends and clients. I sent out emails, messages, and the ad to everyone I knew. I even drafted and sent the press release to the press. The result was that many of my friends donated funds and bought tickets upon my endorsement.

So, it was to my great shock and horror much later that I discovered from a donor friend that the organiser never gave an account of how the funds were utilised and in fact, later confessed that the funds would never reach the supposed recipients but were used in fuding the marketing of the fundraising events.

This may have been reasonable except for the fact that all the marketing had been undertaken by the contributors, pro bono.

The ensuing backlash left many disillusioned and extremely wary and earned the dance community an unsavoury reputation we are still trying to dispel. Many months later, credulous me again performed for free at an event where I was promised that no fundraising or marketing spiel would be unleashed on the audience. I was very dismayed when the organiser blatantly made a fundraising presentation for a charitable organisation. It was highly distasteful in light of negative repercussions of the earlier scam and I was left wondering at the organiser's intentions, duplicity and character as well as my own naivete.

The result is that I was seen as a target for every charlatan and charitable organisation in town. I received so many requests for free performances in the name of charity that I felt compelled to reject all requests, worthy or otherwise. I now much rather go to the source and contribute in my own small way without imposing my supposed endorsement on others.

While I am positive that this is in no way the case with And They Cook, Too, when I saw the push for and assumption that contributors will help market it, I must admit that I had nasty flashbacks.

Fundraising is an art which requires a high level of savvy and diplomacy in order to meet the needs of contributors, donors, and end users. While enthusiasm and passion are highly desirable, a clear head and an eye for the big picture can often mean the difference between credibility and credulity. Too often the intentions are true but the means to ends can come across as questionable.

Like religion, I believe charity should be private and voluntary and am uncomfortable about presuming or being presumed upon . The use of ads for a non-profit purpose, even with the noblest and purest of intentions, is at odds with my beliefs and personality.

I have much respect for the people who have lent their time and resources to this effort and understand their zeal. It is slightly disappointing and sad that so few copies have been sold thus far and so, despite my raging reticence, I am again sticking my neck out to sincerely appeal to those who believe in the mission of Doctors Without Borders to buy a copy of And They Cook, Too.

I reiterate, I am only a contributor and soon-to-be-donor-by-way-of-buying-the-book, not a marketeer or fundraiser, so please direct any questions, issues or contributions to the rightful person here.


Blogger michelle said...

How sad that you had to go through something like that. While I'm sure (hopeful!) that this is not the case with the cookbook, I think it is helpful to get your story out there anyway, so people will check before letting something like that happen to them. That aside, congrats on being published! It looks like a great book!

7:28 am  
Blogger 3A Gurl said...

if you believe in retribution, then you should know that despite all her efforts to make it to SG's society circle and pages have not borne fruit, apart from teeny mentions once in a while. picture her frustration!

9:01 am  
Blogger Ginger Mayerson said...

Just wanted to leave a note that does ship internationally. Here's the scoop: ships worldwide fast and slow; prices depend on what you buy. And if you buy $25 or more sent to one address, it's free shipping:

"Domestic SuperSaver orders are shipped via USPS Media Mail. International SuperSaver orders are shipped via International shipping (10+ business days)."

And the copies that were announced while Asia slept were cost copies for contributors. I was hoping to leave that offer up for a few days, but one of the contributors linked to the page in error, so I had to shut it down in less than 24 hours. Sorry, but I didn't know what else to do.

9:25 am  
Anonymous KathyF said...

Actually, I think everyone had a week or more to make alterations to the cookbook. Unless you were one of the few people we did not have an email for. And the cookbook is available via international mail, so I'm not sure how this complaint applies.

Sorry you've had a bad experience, and if you ever have any questions about the book you should ask one of us immediately. I received the same email, asking for ad space, and I didn't perceive any pressure at all; in fact, I don't have an ad up simply because I don't know how!

Sorry again.

9:36 pm  
Blogger MM said...

Hey Michelle, yes it was. As you can tell from 3A Gurl's comments below, she was also a victim. I'm glad if people will read this post in the manner you have ... this is especially relevant in Singapore as many irregularities in charity funds management created a negative backlash, causing people to withdraw their donations.

I would prefer it if people bought the book or donated directly to Doctors Without Borders. It's not about me being published at all but thanks for the well wishes, Michelle.

3A - As said today, I rather not picture her at all after all that. Shudder.

Ginger & Kathy - As said, I received a email at 3am and the offer ended at 4am. And another later that it was open again from Sunday 3pm to 4am but unfortunately only saw that on Monday 10am. While it was not the best solution, you did what you thought was best. It was just unfortunate that I am in the wrong part of the world.

And you would notice that the email asking us to vet our copies came on 25 February - before the offer. And I responded on 28 Feb.

I explained my reasons to you both via email and will not wish to bring it up here unless you want me to, to clarify why I am opposed to ads. In fact I find it ironic that I find myself having to explain why I do not want ads on my blogs ... LOL.

Anyway, I made some constructive suggestions on how we can raise the sales of the book. Of course, it is your perogative on whether to take these into consideration. Good luck and thanks for organising this.

11:11 pm  
Blogger fooDcrazEE said...

having problem with my computer...cant see ur pic and most of the words....dont really know what u have posted. Will read them later. Take care

5:08 pm  

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