Monday, April 22, 2013

Charity As A Two-Way Street



I received an email thank-you from the World Wildlife Fund today—a nice touch to stay connected on Earth Day. I appreciate this gesture, not only because it was unexpected but because it is so different from the norm. So often the charities I support, including WWF, are mailing me requests for further donations. These will arrive within weeks of my end-of-year donation blitz, usually accompanied with a tax receipt. Then a couple of months later comes the second wave, in envelopes that say Yearly Drive or Spring Campaign or whatever can be thought up to set this particular plea apart from the last one.

This practice of hitting up those that have already been generous is annoying, although I’m sure it’s done because there’s been some study completed somewhere that proves people that give can be cajoled into giving more. However, I think these charities run the risk of turning people against them by their constant harassment. I bet I’m not alone in my refusal to give in to these pleas for more. Yes, many agencies need a constant influx of funds to continue to do their work, but I don’t see how the cost of printing up and mailing these bi-monthly requests for funds actually balances out with any monies received as a result, especially since they're done so often.  As lousy as it makes me feel to ignore them, I, too, am on a limited income and can only give a percentage every year.

I’m sure other donators like me see all that paper going into recycling as a huge waste. Charities see it that way too, so they all suggest monthly donations, usually starting around five dollars and going as high as fifty. With a monthly donation set up, the charitable organization can cut down on the need for these mailings and gain some security in knowing that a certain amount of funds from public donations can be counted on for their budgets to balance. I do support a couple of agencies on a monthly basis; however, I have no idea if I can always give the amounts I do, as my work is sporadic, so I won’t sign up for other monthly giving programs. Besides, I prefer to spread my money around, sometimes giving one year to one environmental agency and to another the next, or giving to one society for the homeless more generously than another because of some imminent need. It’s not as if I have a huge amount to give, either, maybe twenty here or fifteen there, although all tolled, it adds up to about four per cent of my yearly income (which is very low).

Yet every little bit helps, so I guess I will continue to receive unsolicited direct mail pleas from charitable organizations throughout the year. Unless I can get them to stop. Maybe this December when I plan to send off cheques again, I should include a copy of this blog, and request that the agency approach me just once a year for a follow-up donation. I know it goes against all the guidelines they follow, but if I were listened to and appreciated for what little I give and not approached so often, I'd see this gesture from them as benevolent and kind--or,in a word, charitable--and I would make sure to always give to that organization in future.

After all, charity can be seen as a two-way street.