A discussion on the art of giving to charity.


Many are the causes that deserve and need support from those who have the ability to provide aid.  This comes under the heading of charity.  Every disease has a singular collection designed to stamp out, or at least curtail, the advancement of that disease.  At the very least such funds can provide assistance to those afflicted with a particular ailment.  There’s also a need to fund research necessary to curb the progression of disease.  These are worthy causes.

There is no end to the causes for which funds are needed.  Diseases include various forms of cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, polio, muscular dystrophy and so many other diseases have mechanisms for raising funds to relieve the oppression caused by these attacks on human beings.  Schools for orphans or Native American children are causes that require assistance. It is not uncommon to receive requests for aid to disabled veterans, policemen and women, as well as their families that need help when their provider is killed or disabled in the line of duty.

The list goes on and on. I receive four or five requests for assistance almost every day.  Of course, there are some days that no requests for financial aid make their way to my mail box, but that is seldom the case.

I know that many such requests are a result of previous donations to these various organizations.  Sometimes I will give to a specific fund in place of sending flowers for a funeral.  I try to send flowers to the living.

I am not opposed to the various causes that need financial support.  I don’t always appreciate the methods used.  Lately, it’s not uncommon to get a mailing that includes a nickel or a dime, which I am to return with my donation for a suggested one hundred times that amount, or more. Another ploy is to send stamps that will cover the postage for my donation. For me, this seems like a guilt producing method to encourage me to follow through with the request for funds.  I’ve even gotten checks in a letter that declares the check is good and that I can cash it, or send it back as part of my donation.  Once one gives to a particular organization, it is not uncommon for them to send a bill the following year.  The bill states that your yearly pledge is due, even though you know full well you did not commit to a yearly pledge.  This is downright dishonest.  I’m less inclined to give to such an organization.

I mentioned Native American schools earlier.  I have supported a number of such organizations in past years.  I have a house full of dream catchers and small blankets as rewards for my contribution.  I don’t ask for these gifts.  I make my donation in good faith that my money is wisely used for the cause it is intended to serve.  These gifts cost money and rob from the donations received.

Shopping bags are one of what I shall call “guilt gifts” available for a donation of a certain amount of dollars.  This morning I saw an add on television to help disabled American Veterans so that you could receive a blanket with their cause printed on one corner of the item.

T-shirts, key chains, return address labels, writing scratch pads intended for making lists and myriad other items are offered to encourage donations.

Once I called one of the schools that requested money to feed the orphan children housed at their school.  I asked to speak to someone who could give me a financial report as to how donations were distributed.  This particular charity was supported by a specific religious denomination, so I thought I might get an honest answer to my query.  My phone call was shifted from one extension to another until, finally, I was disconnected.  Maybe that was just a fluke, so I took the time to write to the head of that school, a man of the cloth.  My request was the same.  I wanted to know how donations were distributed.  Again, I never received an answer, but only additional requests for further donations.

We know that some well known national charitable organizations pay their executive directorsm millions of dollars. I’m quite sure that I could live comfortably on a one million dollar a year salary.  I don’t want my donations to buy fancy cars and lavish houses for directors of funds intended to help otherwise helpless individuals.

I encourage people to generously support charities of their own choice.  My father died of ALS, Lou Gehrig’s Disease.  At his funeral, our family requested that donations be made to the muscular dystrophy cause. Generally these donations are made in the name of the deceased., which is a nice way to honor the life of a person who has departed.

My point to this is that we can no longer trust a fancy logo, or even a highly recognizable organization with our money.  We need to do our research.  I’m particularly fond of St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.  Patients at that facility do not pay for their care.  That’s the kind of donation I find really worthwhile.

Finally, we have options to give locally to food banks or other community based charities.  Also, we might have relatives or people we know who are severely in need of assistance.

What or to whom we give is entirely up to us. I’m not fond of feeling accosted for a donation as I walk out of a business. In some cases, cashiers will ask if we want to add a dollar to one or another cause.  They can add it right on to our bill.  This feels to me like an ambush.  Similarly, I don’t much care for what we call “panhandlers.”  It can be dangerous to stop on the street to pull money out of one’s pocket to give to another.

There are just too many ways in which we become the target of fund raising.  I’m not stingy, but I don’t want to go around announcing what charities I support.  There are plenty of methods for charitable organizations to let us know that they need help without using the kinds of tactics aimed at putting potential donors on the spot.

This is a highly individual decision.  I would never tell anyone what to do with their money.  However, it makes sense to find out that your money is going where you wanted.  Don’t be fooled by requests for funds that claim to be supported by a religion.  Checking these things out is easy to do these days.  We know that there are far too many scams going on.

Be careful about responding to requests on line or on the telephone. When I lived in Hawaii, some scammer called my church. They told the church secretary a long drawn out fabrication that I was in L.A. and had been mugged.  I had no money and no way to get home.  She wired them the money, which was a considerable amount.  She did this out of her own family’s finances.  She didn’t even call anyone to check on my whereabouts.  I don’t know who had information about my travels.  As I recall, I was right there in Hawaii when she got the call, but she failed to call my apartment to check on the validity of this phone scammer’s claim.

Times are hard. Helping people is a good thing.  I don’t mean to suggest otherwise.  But guard your finances carefully.  There are just too many people and phony organizations that will take your money and laugh all the way to the bank.