Focus on the Family turns to ‘Fred’ for funds

Now that Focus on the Family has slashed 202 jobs and cut production of four of its eight specialized magazines, among other cost-cutting efforts, get ready to meet Fred. He’ll soon be appearing in a commercial near you, asking for money, in a manner of speaking, for Focus on the Family.

Fred, who is depicted as an everyday kind of a guy who works in a cubicle, stars in a commercial that the Colorado Springs ministry will be airing nationwide on CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox and other stations.

In the spot, a guy named Fred is walking around, just going about his daily life, and all the strangers he encounters greet him by saying, “Thanks Fred!” A kid on a bicycle delivering newspapers calls out, “Thanks Fred!” Construction workers at a job site he walks past say, “Thanks Fred!” A newly married couple (man and woman) pull up to the stoplight next to him, look over and say, “Thanks Fred!” Then he goes to the office and a coworker says from over the cubicle, “Thanks Fred!” And then everyone in the elevator calls out “Thanks Fred!”

The idea is to promote the notion that Fred has sent in some cash to Focus on the Family, and that in turn helps families all over thrive.

In an internal news story published by Family News in Focus, Debbie Rusch, executive director of marketing at Focus on the Family, said Fred represents all Focus on the Family donors.

“We always appreciate when Fred steps up, and it doesn’t have to be big,” Rusch is quoted saying. “We appreciate every little piece that comes in to Focus on the Family.”

It is unclear how much money Focus on the Family plans to spend to air the commercial, but, according to the Thanks Fred! Website, the donations that come in will be used “to assist families in need. Whether it’s answering a simple parenting question or counseling someone through the heartbreak of divorce, Focus on the Family is there to help.”

Neither the commercial, nor the Fred Website, nor the news story about the campaign mention the layoffs last Friday of 202 employees from the Colorado Springs organization. Nor do they mention their current “Merry Tossmas” campaign designed to single out retailers for boycott if their employees don’t wish customers a “Merry Christmas” specifically, rather than the more generic, and inclusive, “Happy Holidays.”

Nor do they mention the $540,000 cash and additional support that the ministry recently donated to the Prop. 8 campaign in California — which has drawn criticism from some who maintain that Focus on the Family’s anti-gay stance is actually hurtful to families with gay and lesbian members.

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