A look at charitable giving



Today, I heard on the radio that following “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday,” the next day has been dubbed “Giving Tuesday.”  The idea is that organizations will encourage people to give during this Christmas season and businesses will support this idea.   Charity is a wonderful thing.  I wish I had my hands on some statistics though.  I didn’t shop on Black Friday or Cyber Monday.  Do I get a pass on Giving Tuesday?

My understanding is that America is the most giving country in the world.  I happen to know, from my own experience, that we are constantly asked to support causes.  Most of them are legitimate and helpful charity organizations.  I often receive five or more solicitations in a single day.  Often, I’m sent return address labels as a gift for my participation.  Lately the trend is to find a nickel or a dime or even a check for $2.50, which we can cash or return with our donation.  I’ve never tried to cash one of them, but they seem to be real.  I just don’t much like the guilt process of fund raising, no matter what the cause.

I believe in giving, but I don’t think it’s fair if one charity passes my name and address on to another.  I have, in the past, given to schools that harbor needy Native American children.  Now I get requests to support more of these schools than I know about.  I suspect that they share my name. I called one of these schools once to ask for a financial report.  My call was rerouted and eventually, I was at the end of a dead phone line.  I was cut off.  Maybe that was the result of a solar flare or some other anomaly.  So I wrote to that school and explained to the kind cleric who runs the school, I guess as a part of his religious vocation.  I explained that, while I had given to this school on a number of occasions, I would not be sending any additional money their way until I got some kind of financial report. Apparently the response to my letter got lost in the mail.

I have another complaint.  Some of the charities pay their executives millions of dollars.  I happen to know that anybody can live on much less than two or three million dollars a year.  I just don’t think that people managing charitable giving should be earning such a salary.  I understand they might be good at their job.  That’s impressive, and I would not object to a plaque that acknowledges their self-sacrifice, but I’m afraid that’s as far as I can go with that idea.

We have to be so careful.  Even in disaster relief, one always hears about scams in which someone out there has devised a scheme to “get rich quickly” under the guise of raising money to help with one disaster relief or another.  This is a despicable way to take advantage of people who are willing to help.  We’re getting smarter about who we give our money to, but it’s no secret that many well-meaning elderly people have lost their life savings to ill considered investments.

Helping those around us that we know need help is one way to avoid falling into the abuse of disreputable organizations or individuals who would use money intended for those in real and severe need to provide their own luxury. 

I’m not suggesting that we never give; we just need to be really careful about where we send money.  We have to do our homework and make sure that the charities we give to are actually serving the cause they so proudly boast.  Just because an organization is widely known, that doesn’t mean that they’re handling our money in the best possible way.  We know that even churches have, at times, used money intended to help the needy to embellish the lifestyle of individuals who are supposedly serving.

I know that there are many people in the world who need help, and I’m happy to do my part.  But I don’t care to be ambushed on street corners or by felonious mailings that will never put my money to help those in need.

“Giving Tuesday” is sort of a gimmick. Most people who are serious “givers” donate the year round.  I actually believe that the majority of people would be more than happy to have the resources to give to those in need.  The church is a great example of what it means to be a giver.  Church members are encouraged to give a percentage of their income every month.  I don’t know that it needs to be regulated.  Individuals know what they can afford to give.  At some point we just have to rely on the goodness of people and trust that we are all doing our part.  I’m not naïve.  I know that some people don’t give at all.  Others don’t have the resources to give monetarily, but do their part by volunteer work and other methods of helping those in need.  Many people respond to crises that occur, particularly when natural disaster hits.  We will truly be missing the mark if we respond only to commercial-like events tied to “Black Friday,”  “Cyber Tuesday” or “Giving Tuesday.”