Sunday, October 23, 2005

Charity, Thy Name Is Wasteful

It’s tough when you try to do the right thing and it backfires in your face. I am speaking specifically of donating money to an organization, only to get your donation back in the forms of personalized items. I don’t donate a lot of money, but I will give now and then when I can afford to do so. I think it is our obligation as citizens of the world to help out those who are less fortunate, be it directly or indirectly.

For example, last year I donated to Whitman-Walker Clinic in DC: a few bucks now and then when I had it, and a sponsorship of a friend who ran in an AIDS marathon. With each donation, I received either a notepad with my name printed on the top or a packet of personalized return address labels. One set of these labels had my name and my work address printed, since I registered to walk in the AIDS Walk with other people in my office. These labels were, of course, useless. The pads of paper were unusable as they had my complete name printed across the top taken from my check. There was also a misspelling in the name. Since I’d rather not share my entire misspelled name with the world, using this stationery served no purpose - useless again.

Now all this stuff costs money. Maybe not a lot of money, but that’s not the point. The point is I don’t want to get my donation back again. The gesture is nice, but I would much rather see my name on their website as a donor than get a pen with my name on it that no one will see. Of course I don’t donate money to impress other people, but if you want to recognize me for helping your organization, then give me the proper recognition. Let me see my name in print someplace other than on top of a pad of paper that sits in the back of my desk drawer. Add my name to a list of other donors where we can all be proud of our association, and not to a coffee mug that will just sit in the back of my kitchen cupboard.

Don’t beg me for money once a month and then buy me a gift with the money I send you. Send me a free email that says my $20, $50 or $250 donation went to paying for 25 HIV tests, or several hours of counseling for an uninsured patient, or a week of meals for a homebound AIDS patient. I will believe you – I don’t need to see it.

So to the charities to whom I donate, please don't waste my money on me. I can print my own return labels. Snapfish can personalize anything I want. I don’t need gifts with my name on them. I can recognize myself. I just wish you would recognize me too.


  1. >>>>>>>>>>>>>
    BINGO!!!!! Amen to that. Agree 100%. Heck, so many of the organizations send those very little gifts - get the right size organization and I suspect its a large chunk of change that they're throwing away. I too would rather see the amount used to help an additional person, or two, or three.....Just think of the added funds going to postage alone on these items that could be redirected as well.

    And email! What a concept - do you think these charities would catch on? Perhaps there is one potential flaw there -fraud - but there is is always a way to prevent it.


  2. I agree; I'd rather as much of my money as possible go to those in need rather than recognising my contribution.

    If I can afford to donate I can afford pens, notepads, etc. ;)

  3. I know right?! And the constant barrage of mailings which are a waste of resources and money. Send me a quarterly email or post card asking me to donate. If I can afford it, I will, otherwise I won't. I don't need the pages long letter about the latest horrible thing the Republican party has done or is trying to do to us now. All too aware thanks.

  4. My guess is that most here wouldn't consider themselves evangelical Christians; this writer does. But some confessedly Christian charities do the same thing, sending out "free gifts" for a donation. This isn't always bad; a very good site will send you a subscription to their excellent magazine if you send them $35 per month. But then there others who get rather flamboyant.

    Generally speaking, charities should keep overhead minimal to provide maximum benefit from donations to those in need. A small thank you gift is within reason' but it shouldn't be overdone. CB

  5. Token gifts like address stickers that promote the cause are not offensive. Note pads, pens... they do the same thing because people leave them everywhere. It's just a more painful method of advertising for us because it seems excessively wasteful.

    I'm generally with ya, but I can see the other side.