I deal in hope : Carolyn R Scheidies

Blog Charities—how to choose wisely

I’ve written before about some of my problems with charities. Overall, I do not have problems with the fact that they exist. Most were started for a very good reason and to deal with a problem, a disease or research. Most were started with a lump sum but can only continue their efforts with regular large and small donations to cover expenses.

That’s where promotion comes in. As the charity grows, the need for funds increases. These charities then hire promoters to draw in more patrons to donate. These promoters use social media, news sources, ads, the post office, and live events to reach those who might have a reason to donate. Of course, they seek the deepest pockets possible.

One of my problems has always been that while we donate to several charities, those charities turn around and send us magazines we don’t want or read, and a continuous stream of email and colorful letters and brochures. I hesitate to donate to a charity that isn’t on our regular list. Why? Because we don’t only receive a simple thank you, but also get on a list that assures we will be inundated through regular and email. Oh yes, and we may also receive address labels, note pads, or other unordered or desired “gifts.” Recently we received mittens, socks and more from charities to which we’ve never donated. I am sure we were on a list somewhere.

This year, we have received so many notepads I am making a stack of them. I hate to throw them away, so I am trying to figure out ways to use them. Maybe I’ll pass some onto my young grandkids to scribble on. We also have enough address labels to last for the rest of our lives.

Our mailbox is filled with emotional appeals for charities–some of which I have never heard of before. Others are perfectly legitimate charities. Yet coffers must be almost empty to spend the money to send fancy literature to individuals and families who have never given to them before.

Many charities, like regular businesses, buy and sell lists of possible donors/customers. Since Keith’s retirement, our finances are not as tight as they were while he worked, and we lived paycheck to paycheck. Add to that some inheritance and we have upped our giving significantly. Still, we do not give indiscriminately. We gave back to places that helped with things like Keith’s cancer medications. Most of our giving goes to charities who’ve we’ve given to for many years–our church, certain missionaries, organizations who reach out with practical needs to those without, etc.

Those charities we do not support waste their promotion money by calling–we do not give online, emailing–emails are sent to the junk folder, regular mail that gets opened, then trashed. I do hope charities doing good work and spending wisely receive the donations required to continue. But, I also wish these charities had a more narrow, targeted focus, not a shotgun approach that, more often than not, misses the mark and wastes some of those dollars they need so much.

Before donating check out the charity. Is it legitimate? Do most of their income go to promotion, salaries, and offices or to the reason they exist? Give only as it works for your budget and don’t get pulled in by emotional appeals. (One reason we stopped giving online was that urge to give in to an emotional appeal before checking things out.)

The constant appeals do get old, so scrap those that hold no interest, Sort out the few that do, and brighten someone’s life by reaching out with a donation. After all, generosity is a good thing. Not only does thoughtful giving make us feel good, but also helps others.

© 2022 Carolyn R Scheidies
Kearney Hub column 01/31/22
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