Monday, December 8, 2014

It's Charity "Blitz" Time Again - But You Have To Learn to Say "NO!"

Yes, it's that time of year again, when your mailbox is pounded by charity appeals. Many of these one would never have heard of, as MONEY magazine estimates that there are now over 1 million! Even if I gave one thin dime to each one, I'd be in hock up to my eyeballs as most readers would too. Hence, one must pick and choose, and this means saying a vociferous 'No!' to most.

To put it bluntly then, the Denver Post - in its Wall Street Journal section yesterday - shouldn't have had to run a half -page article headed, 'It's OK to Say NO!' - referring to charity appeals, especially the noxious ones that now confront us when we check out at drugstores and grocery marts like Safeway. Safeway has already had something like five begging appeals since June, and (if I recall)  I believe I've donated a total of $5. (That is $1 on each occasion I did donate, separated by maybe one week during each appeal period).

Am I being a "Scrooge"? Hell no! I am being circumspect in how and where I donate my money, and especially if these are charities with which I may not be familiar.  (I already noted this back in August, in a post on why I wasn't doing the 'ice bucket challenge'.  Thus, just as I refuse to take on charities I've never heard of, I also refuse to hop on a charity bandwagon, even if it's ALS - just to look cool in some viral video or be one of the pack.)

The end result is that despite nearly one hundred pleas hitting my mailbox every week, most - nearly 85 - end up in the dumpster. A huge waste of paper - and trees- but that's not my fault. I never asked these outfits to ply my mailbox with pleas, including a number of them repeating it despite zero donations. (They also try to reach me by phone but I refuse to answer and all messages are filtered through the answering machine. My wife's voice resounds with "If you're a telemarketer, please hang up now!")

Most of the charities also don't meet the effectiveness-efficiency threshhold noted in charity sites such as and This means that most of the money donated goes directly to the practical needs which the organizations claim and not to "administration" or to second hand pushers like telemarketers. One of the best charities in this regard is St. Jude's Children's Hospital for which 100% of proceeds goes directly to attending to needs. It is these charities I am more likely to donate to, rather than, say  'Wounded Warriors'  which doesn't make the cut on charitynavigator.

Many charities also use assorted ploys to attempt to coerce giving under the guise of  plying the would be target with "free gifts".  These may include everything from dream catchers (sent by assorted Native American organizations) to gift wrappings, greeting cards and note pads. Others send calendars then attach a donation form acknowledging receipt with offerings starting at $15. Seriously?  Fifteen bucks for a calendar - actually donation - when I already have received 50? Well, I do acknowledge receipt and enclose a buck, as a minimal receipt donation. Meanwhile, most of the free gift ploys go without response, if it's a "free gift" - ok, I take that literally!

One of the worst ploys  entails playing on the would be donor's emotions - such as putting a garish image of a blind baby on the envelope with the bold script words: "Go ahead and throw me away! I know you would anyway!"

Okay, here goes!  Moral of the story, do not try to play on my emotions and believe that tactic will entice me to pour out my heart or wallet. No it won't. I will see through it instantly and your material ends up in the dumpster.

The best advice the Post WSJ piece offered is that before any charitable giving one must ensure his own financial house is in order. A story was related in which a woman donated so much money she lost her home and went into bankruptcy. This is giving gone mad. The general rubric is that just as when you're on a plane you need to put your oxygen mask on before helping anyone else (in event of emergency) so also you take care of your own financial house before giving to others.

This is good advice.

By all means we all need to donate to charity, since the government programs are simply not going to cover all needy Americans, all the time. This is why the bulk of my donations goes to homeless missions as well as food kitchens. Not giving then, is simply not on and I still am aghast that the richest Americans give so little (about 1% of total yearly income)  relative to those of us middling to low income folks (2 % of income).

But don't donate blindly. Do so with purpose, singling out those charities closest to your heart and causes, but not based on reactive or emotive appeals!

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