What is the Value of a Holiday Greeting

As my people have just celebrated the new year, my Inbox has been filled with wishes for a happy and healthy one from a variety of organizations I am associated with, have donated to or bumped into at some point. And right now I can’t remember a single one of them.

They were all some generic version of this:

I received three cards in the mail from organizations and I’m looking at them right now.

My question is: What is the value of an impersonal online greeting?

I suppose the conventional answer is that it cost nothing financially, didn’t do any harm and gets our name/logo/social media icons in front of people. Why not, one could argue?

I’d like to ask why instead. They didn’t come from a person, didn’t link to an interesting article or sermon, didn’t invite me to anything. They’re just online pieces of cardboard. At synagogue for the last two years, our board of trustees divided up the membership list and called every family to wish them a happy new year. We found out if people had problems, of course heard some complaints, but mainly we just wanted people to know we value their families as members of our community.

My personal opinion (as if I’d give you anything but!) is that it’s actually worse to treat people like records in a database than to make the effort to reach out personally to them. If you really want to wish people a happy new year, send them a real card or give them a call. Otherwise, forget it, it just shows how really unimportant I am to your organization.

But we can’t call or hand address cards to our thousands of records in our database? If you can’t split up the work, if you don’t have enough volunteers who wouldn’t mind spending an evening doing that for you, well, that’s a whole other conversation.

And speaking of unimportant…how about those Obama emails, eh? They’ve gone from the first connected campaign in 2008 to Bush I circa 1992. Seriously, am I really supposed to believe that Barack, Michelle and Joe Biden of course with the folksy subject line yesterday of Look.) I’m not doing anything until I get an email directly from Sasha, maybe then I’ll give my fifty bucks!

Of course, the emails still make money otherwise the campaign wouldn’t do it. Just as telemarketing calls still make money from some lonely person somewhere. But that doesn’t make a good or useful or productive or even respectful thing to do.

What the direct mail campaign of 2012 proves is that the campaign of 2008 was a fraud; the Obama-ites never really believed in us, never believed in transformation, but just wanted to win an election. Of course, they’re using Twitter, Facebook, all the channels, but their goal is to raise money not to engage in real organizing or conversation. Their goal now they just want to win this one having lost the opportunity to actually re-make a political party by training organizers in fifty states and creating a permanent infrastructure for educating, and rallying progressives.

Maybe I’ll email them back a happy new year card.


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Allison Fine

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