Sometimes it’s tempting to believe that The Cause is Good Enough to make up for less than your best.
Consider the Illustrious Public Restroom Hand Dryer, for example. A brilliant device by any measure, it’s like a hair dryer for your skin. Dries hands AND with a simple twist, FACES, if you so desire! It saves trees! And energy! And reduces waste! And your hands get just as dry as with the lowly, tree-gobbling, landfill-clogging, energy-sucking paper towel!
Except that it’s really noisy, and it takes a while, and doesn’t actually get your hands as dry as you’d like, and only one person can use it at a time, so when there’s a line you feel awkward standing there wringing your hands under a vent while a crowd of drippy-handed onlookers sighs heavily and vigorously mouths words at you that no one can hear because of the jet-engine-like howl coming out of the machine that somehow manages to do nothing but shepherd all the little drops of water around your flapping folds of hand-skin and maybe, if you’re lucky, scald you a little.
Not that I’m bitter, mind you.
Given the choice I should always use the hand dryer. I should want to use the hand dryer. I should long for hand dryers, nay, I should demand them, knowing the heavy price that I pay today makes the world an incrementally better place for all of the many generations of damp-handed skin-scalded children that will come after me.
Unfortunately the paper towel does a better job in less time, and I’m eco-insensitive and selfish.
Sadly, the same phenomenon affects any number of well-meaning individuals and organizations; charities, lemonade stands, churches.
Surely people will overlook the cheapness of the t-shirt, or the weakness of the lemonade, or the horrific lack of musicality from the worship team, because, by golly, it’s for Such a Good Cause. We allow ourselves to cut corners and make excuses because the Cause will mean so much, you see.
Except that at the end of the day people can only maintain altruism for so long, and every time you take any amount of someone’s energy, or time, or money, or attention and in exchange provide them with something that leaves their hands raw and humid, they soon learn to associate Your Cause with something unpleasant. Something to be borne, at best, and at worst, to be actively avoided.
Better to let someone’s altruism be its own reward than to give them a cheap token that makes them question whether you can even be trusted with the investment they just made.
Best to amaze someone with a truly incredible product or experience that gains you a Fan, amplifies The Message, and actually furthers The Cause.