Philippa Thomas Online

Life and leadership coaching

It’s an elegant ask – but Mr #Obama, the answer is still no.


This email from team Obama dropped into my inbox a few minutes ago…

“Friend —

As you may have noticed, we’ve asked you for a donation a few times now.

But according to our records, you haven’t yet made an online donation to this campaign at this email address.(If our records are wrong, I apologize and thank you!)

I’m not writing to ask you for money again. I’m actually writing to ask your opinion about why you haven’t given, and what you think would inspire you or other Obama supporters like you to decide to take the leap and donate.

We have two quick questions for you. Can you take a minute to answer them?

There’s a good reason we’re asking for your feedback: The kind of organization we all decided to be a part of only works if people like you pitch in to build it.

It’s also the reason no other candidate has been able to match our level of grassroots support. This isn’t the easiest way to run a campaign — but we know it’s the right way.

That’s why we want to know what you’re thinking.

Please take a minute to answer these two questions today:

Thanks so much,


Rufus Gifford
National Finance Director
Obama for America

P.S. — Of course, if you’d like to become one of our million-plus grassroots donors today, by all means, please make a donation of $3 or whatever you can afford”.

Well, that was certainly intended to prick my conscience. It’s a very smart example of “no stone left unturned” in the hunt for campaign cash. But I find the tone of reproach to be “bespoke fundraising” gone a little too far.

And so I felt moved to email back.

“I haven’t donated because you added me to this email list without my permission. As a journalist covering Senator Obama’s early campaign stops, I was only allowed entry to events if I registered with an email address. I enjoy being on the mailing list – this for example is a terribly elegant shakedown – but it wasn’t voluntary. Best wishes.”

I did have an immediate response, telling me where I could donate – or get merchandise – or volunteer for the cause. But I don’t expect an actual answer.

I wonder how many  hundreds more emails I will get from team Obama by November.

Author: philippathomas

I've been a BBC newswoman for 30 years: reporting from around the world. Currently to be seen anchoring BBC World News TV. Main interests - politics, psychology, reading, trekking, and all things American. I began this personal blog as a 2011 Nieman Journalism Fellow at Harvard. You can also find me talking daily news on Twitter at @PhilippaBBC, coaching @positivecoachi3, and life & travel on Instagram at @philippanews. Thanks for reading!

2 thoughts on “It’s an elegant ask – but Mr #Obama, the answer is still no.

  1. Philippa,
    The “restraint” demonstrated in your reply does you credit. I’m not sure I would have been able to maintain a similar reasonable tone. If they are prepared to abuse your e-mail address in this way then I think you are right not to be holding your breath in anticipation of a more specific response to any points you raise. You have obtained the e-mail version of a recorded message I believe. It’s also highly likely that their “list husbandry” will be such that you will receive many more begging e-mails similar to the one you have highlighted. The e-mail itself is a particularly oily one I think. It reminds me of so many of those unsolicited phone calls that start with the caller uttering the words “don’t worry, this is not a sales call” , when it plainly is. My usual response is “Oh, that’s a shame, only I have lots of money waiting to be spent on things I don’t need that have been brought to my attention by random anonymous callers. If you are not one of them you’d better get off the line and let the others get through”. Seems to do the trick usually!


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