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.