Hurricane recovery: Don’t give to the Red Cross if you are only doing it for the American Airlines miles

Estimated read time: 3 minutes

As another hurricane is bearing down on the East Coast of the United States the Red Cross is springing into action- as are other nonprofits. And of course those nonprofits can’t do the work without us donating money to them.

I have donated to nonprofits over the years, ran marketing for United Way and even did my own unique ice bucket challenge video, which you can see here.

Read next: How to create better content for awareness months

So I know the work nonprofits do is important and they need our donations to continue helping people most in need.

And as you know I also like to play the travel game and collect miles and go on awesome trips that I could never afford without redeeming points. So I was excited to see a promo that I could earn American Airline miles if I donated to the Red Cross to help them with their disaster relief.

See, a $100 donation would get me 1,000 American Airlines miles. You can make that donation here. I did make a $100 donation this way.

That’s nice but then I also realized it was the wrong intent. Giving to get miles is about getting the miles and not about making a charitable donation. Or helping people.

And currently $100 gets your a whole lot more miles on the American website:

So if you are doing it because it’s such a good deal on miles, it’s not. But offering miles to donate certainly gives us miles collecting and redeeming travelers to react to the news headlines about the offer.

Of course, I then went into compare mode and looked what 1,000 miles would cost me on the American site. You can’t even buy 1,000 currently. It starts at 2,000. $118 gets me 4,000 miles.

But really, give to nonprofits because you want to help. Not because you want the miles.

From a marketing perspective this worked though. It got my attention and I don’t even remember seeing any other calls to action to donate.

This headline made it in front of me though because I follow travel news.

This is also different from those deals where a nonprofit gets 10 percent of a restaurant’s nightly sales on one night. So people come in to have a meal their diet didn’t need and 10 percent of their $100 bill – so 10 bucks – goes to the nonprofit. You can see why I’m not a fan of that math.

If you want to give to support, save the meal and donate that $100 to the nonprofit. Eating more doesn’t get the nonprofit that much more.

But the Red Cross deal was different.

1 – I didn’t even see it without the news headline. That earned media worked!

2 – I gave and yes I took the miles and why not? But I also knew it wasn’t about the miles. Or I would have bought 4,000 on the AA site.

Something that crossed my mind: What we offer in a relationship and transaction determines the relationship we have.

In addition to the Red Cross you can also donate to the United Way Hurricane Florence Recovery Fund or your local United Way

Thank you everyone for helping.