Charity in disarray


19th November

Next year, I am going to keep a box under my desk and deposit in it all the begging letters I receive, just so I can count them all up. I think I shall be needing more than one box, though.

What I would like to know, is how a person is supposed to deal with this great onslaught?

Not just the begging letters, but the ones that send you “free” stuff and if you ignore them, they send a follow-up: “Did you receive our free gift?”

Maybe one should be really polite and write back, saying “Yes. Thank you!”

But it’s not really a free gift. It’s supposed to make you feel you must send money.

Well who asked them to send me stuff, anyway?

Some of them send you a nice clean dollar bill, assuming, of course you will send it back with a few more dollars attached.

But some make you feel they are really desperate because they can only afford to send you pennies or maybe a quarter. I have a change jar full of that!

Then there are those who say that a rich benefactor has offered a”matching” donation…he will donate $5 for each $1 we contribute…if we can to come up with the first $10,000. So if you don’t respond to this letter, you will risk them losing a whole wonderful donation. Bah…

One charity that I supported for many years will not accept that I have retired and gone on a fixed income. I wrote to them a number of times explaining this, asking to be removed from their little list, but to no avail. They persisted with their “free” gifts. When these were items I could actually use I would send back a few dollars, once more asking them to stop. I even tried sending stuff back….Still the letters come. Children are starving. Apparently it’s my fault.

The mind boggles when you start to think about all these letters being assembled. All that paper! Do they seriously think that anyone has time to sit and read all the sad stories they send? Do they not realize that when they attach a picture of some poor abused creature, beaten to death, that a lot of us simply switch off, unwilling to be emotionally black-mailed and extorted in such a vile manner?

Yet when I cast those letters into the bin, I can’t help feeling that I am killing a tiger, a whale, a donkey, a dog…I am getting better, though, about that.

No wonder the administration costs are so high. Even if machines can print and assemble letters and stuff them in envelopes (can they?), someone has to think up all this stuff.

It really pisses me off. I am well aware of the need to be charitable. Like a lot of people, I have my favourite charities that I give to regularly. My preference is for charities that have low administrative fees. Charities that put your money straight to work. I would rather make a donation to a charity that is not a tax write-off, than give money that will go toward producing all that bumpf.

For a while, when I was young and less slug-like, I did some fund raising. My friend Tim had a great suggestion that we used very successfully. We made an appeal throughout the company I worked for, asking staff to contribute the equivalent of an hour’s pay. That way, everyone carried the burden equally and it put the fund into perspective. Who could not afford an hour’s pay?

Some people contributed several hours pay, but no-one contributed less which they surely would have done if we had just ask for an unqualified donation. It was a very good idea.

Obviously my fund-raising was small and time-limited. Still, I learned a lot from it, and I feel there has to be a better way than the total free-for-all fund raising in this country has become.

The really sad thing is that there are vulnerable people who receive begging letters, and take them all very seriously. Some people feel compelled to place their last dollars in these envelopes. It’s just sad.

Not only that, these piles and piles of junk mail are creating so much waste! It’s become my latest big worry, waste. I contemplate the comparatively small pile of rubbish that goes out from my house each week and try imagining it multiplied however many times. Oh my God.

Bit by bit I am trying to get plastic out of my life but it’s a bit like the crusade I once had which involved not buying anything that came from China. You would have an empty house.

So I was wondering if anyone had any thoughts?

Colin says he’ll get right on it

14 thoughts on “Charity in disarray

  1. I’ve often thought that if they would not send ANYTHING at all, I would be happy, when I wanted to, to make a donation. They could save millions, in my opinion, just not producing all this stuff. I would not even complain about a small postcard, saying, if you have it, we could always use a donation, thanks.

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  2. Call them and ask to be taken off the mailing list? Send them back a notification on their begging letter that you are deceased? I did this with the many credit card offers in big black magic marker. Took a while but it finally worked. Call and tell them your dear mother is dead, no reason to send any more begging letters? Write return to sender on the envelope and drop it back in the mail so it goes back to them? Not sure if any of these would work but they might feel empowering.

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  3. Actually my experience is that being dead doesn’t qualify although you might be excused for not responding! I did the return to sender thing too. I am going to research this. There has to be a way!

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  4. I get many mailings too! If after two requests to be removed from the mailing list I still keep getting mailings, I either keep what they send me with no donation,pass the item on, or just recycle/trash the item and I don’t feel guilty. I keep a list of the charities I get in contact with. I have found that most organizations will honor my request to be removed from their lists. I always send a small donation if a charity we are willing to support sends me something I can use. Hope this helps!

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    1. Maybe I should ask the people at the Post Office for their input. The sheer volume of junk mail must keep a lot of people in jobs and I certainly don’t want to deprive someone of gainful employment. Maybe I’ll just start looking at it that way and stop fretting about it pointlessly!

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      1. Excellent re-framing, Carolyn. I hardly receive any first class mail. Minus the flyers from the grocery store, the soliciting for hearing aids, the creepy funeral industry sending me letters about my demise, my letter carrier would only need to stop here once, twice a week.

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  5. Out of all the multitude of solicitations, I only respond to one. The rest must be opened and anything with my name on it must be shredded. This is very time-consuming. If all the money wasted on these unwanted mailings were put to a better use, I would have more respect for those charities.

    I was donating on a regular basis to one that would send me return address labels. The issue was that they printed “Ms.” before my name. I detest that and would never ever use that as part of my name. I wrote them several letters, explaining that I would continue to donate if they would correct the printing. They never responded, so I never sent them anything again.

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  6. I learned a long time ago that I am in charge of my finances and I make the decisions as to where my money goes. I budget a certain amount monthly for a charitable donation and that’s it. I’m under no obligation to satisfy anyone or any organization who wants to get their sticky fingers in my pocket. I make the decision of how much and to whom I donate and get very resentful toward people who try to guilt me out of my money.

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  7. I have a brother named Colin and he is very special to me ~ your Colin is beautiful.

    I also get mail asking for donations but not so many this year as in the previous years.
    I have some charities that I donate to and like you give to charities that put the money where it should go to and not administrative fees!

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  8. I don’t know how US mail works, but in Canada when you just put “return to sender” on the envelope for certain types of mass mailings, the envelopes don’t actually go back to the sender. So it is best to contact them directly, by phone if possible, to ask to have your name removed from the list. This doesn’t always work, but it is probably the most effective method.

    Also, I worked for a charity for many years. We didn’t enjoy having to send out the fundraising mailings, but it was a necessity. For most people, out of sight is out of mind. They need to be reminded of the existence of the charity if the charity is to survive.

    Personally I give to a very small number of very select charities. One larger gift to a single charity is way more effective than multiple small gifts to numerous charities.

    Finally, when you give as generously as you can to a small number of charities that do work you value, you don’t have to feel guilt for those you don’t support. We can all, each of us, just do small things, but our small things add up and become big things.

    And PS… I found your blog by way of the Bedlam Farm blog. You tell interesting stories and I enjoy your writing. 🙂Thank you.

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