Introduction from Eshrink Editor: I think all readers will relate to this blog post where Eshrink discusses the battle of the charities during the holidays. I told him about a website I use to evaluate charities and he wanted me to add it to the beginning of the post in hopes it might help people give to charities that maximize the amount of money that goes to the people the charity says it wants to help versus executive compensation and “administrative” costs. It’s charitynavigator.org. What I like about this non-profit is that they explain in simple terms the methodology they use to evaluate each charity. Take it away Eshrink with the latest installment of the Curmudgeon Series. This one is entitled ‘Tis the Season!
Now is the time to max out those credit cards. After all, you will have a year to pay them off, and be ready to do it all over again. Most people, even some non-Christians, follow the tradition of gift giving during the Christmas holidays. Some might say that in many instances it has become an obscene example of crass materialism. In any event it is said that we of the Christian faith are generous in general, with of course, many exceptions to that rule. This generosity presents many business opportunities particularly in the retail and the manufacture of stuff. This is confirmed by the long-held proposition that the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas is the only profitable time of the year for many retailers. There are also the delivery services, the credit card companies, the grocers, and the electricity providers that are among those who profit as a result of those millions of gaudily wrapped packages.
JOY TO THE WORLD
Ah, but those are not the only ones for whom the season is joyous. It is a great time for thieves who can follow UPS or Fed Ex trucks and collect a lot of stuff, not to mention the shoplifters and purse snatchers who find it easier to defeat the security cameras when stores are crowded. The “begging” business is also certain to have an uptick since there is a focus on family and children, and the contrast of opulence and poverty is apt to be dramatic–thus provoking feelings of guilt among those who go “ALL OUT” on the gift giving at Christmas.
TIME TO CASH IN: THE BUSINESS of GIVING
Those circumstances are not lost on various charitable organizations who go into high gear during the holiday season. The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals unleashes some real tear jerkers on television. The Shriner’s Hospital, and St. Jude Hospital for children likewise are not shy about showing children in wheelchairs or with prosthetic limbs. There seems to be an increase in the number of starving children seen on TV along with severely impaired veterans leading one to assume there must be considerable competition for all that Christmas “goodwill” money. Charitable giving is also enhanced by those who want to take advantage of deductions prior to the end of the year. It is fertile ground and must be the charitable organizations’ equivalent of the retailer’s Black Friday.
DISCLAIMER to IMPENDING COMPLAINT
All of this is simply a preamble to my most recent complaint. In my defense, I feel compelled to issue a disclaimer that I am not anti-charity in any sense of the word. As a matter of fact, I believe that it does good things not only for the beneficiaries but often times even more for the giver. In my own case when I am feeling particularly beneficent, and drop a whole dollar bill in the Salvation Army pot, which is obviously designed to only receive coins, I walk away with a bit of a spring in my step feeling very righteous.
NO ANONYMOUS DONORS
Although I do not profess to be even a minor league philanthropist, I do manage to cough up a few bucks on occasion for charities which I think worthwhile. In recent times, we as a society have chosen to forfeit privacy in return for convenience. Consequently; it should not come as a surprise when organizations sell our names to other organizations. In one case I noted a very small print notice in the bottom of a solicitation that reassured me that although they passed my name to other charities, such organizations were carefully vetted to ensure their legitimacy. Somehow, I did not feel motivated to thank them for deciding to put my name on someone else’s sucker list without my permission. Since this seems to be standard operating procedure for these charities, it is not surprising that our gift giving is rewarded with a barrage of requests for money.
GOOD STUFF for “FREE” – NEW TACTICS
In recent years I have noted a new technique designed to squeeze some green from our pocketbooks which I find to be especially repugnant. I first noticed this several years ago with a solicitation from the March of Dimes. Some of you young whippersnappers may not know that this charity had its beginning as a quest to find a cure for Polio, but with the eradication of that disease, they didn’t want a good bureaucracy to go to waste so they switched to birth defects. Those of you who are on their list may have noticed a dime is attached to their fundraising letters.
I do not mean to denigrate the March of Dimes organization for they were very much involved in financing Salk and Sabin who developed the vaccines which eliminated that horrible disease that left children crippled for life. It was developed in 1938 with the help of Franklin Roosevelt, himself a victim of the disease. I recall fund drives at our school when we kids brought in dimes to be used for the cause. Of course, this was back in the time when a dime had some value, a time when the dime stores flourished and you could actually buy something for 10 cents. In addition to the financing, it provided for research. I am certain it also had great value in allowing kids to feel good about giving.
NOT A PENNY FROM ME
Although the March of Dimes pioneered this type of fundraising, others have carried the idea of sending a gift with their solicitation to a ridiculous extreme–which is the basis of the weekly complaint from this old curmudgeon. The dime was merely a symbol, while all the stuff I see arriving along with an essay concerning the plight of those who suffer from some horrible malady or situation, is accompanied by greeting cards, return address labels, ball point pens, calendars, calculators, and even money. The latter are the ones that I find most irritating. They apparently think that if they send me a check for a couple of dollars, I will feel obligated to send them money, which of course makes even less sense.
If these fund raisers in their infinite wisdom believe such tactics stimulate me to contribute to whatever they are selling, they are sadly mistaken. Instead, I feel insulted that they think they must give me something in order to get something from me, or is it that if I get something for free I will feel guilty if don’t respond. In either event, response to such tactics is unlikely to put that spring in my step.
The whole “tactic” just puts a damper on that feeling of goodwill that should accompany generosity. What’s the answer? Well, you could write a blog post about it (or let these charities know what you think by writing them an email or strongly worded letter). Also, Eshrink editor Maggie provided you with that charitynavigator website at the beginning of this post. ‘Tis the Season of Giving. Give wisely!!