Thoughts on Donations to Worthy Causes

It's Christmas time, when most of us spend some time thinking of family and friends, not to mention Santa Claus as well as the religious significance of the season as the New Year approaches. If you're a caring and sentient person to any degree, you hear the calls to help those who are in need: Santa's clinking bells at Salvation Army collection bags and the general appeal for assistance for those without adequate shelter, clothing or meals. All of us, I assume, are affected by these needs in an overall sea of plenty and try to help.

However, without being a negative Nelly or grouchy Grinch, it has become clear that attempts to help, at least by sending a check or a credit card donation to favorite causes, besides presumably aiding the cause, also results in my contact information shared with other charitable groups. And shared. And shared. After some time, you will receive, electronically or in the mail, requests and pleas from others. And others. To make matters worse, or more dire, and reflecting what appears to work for the charities, once you send a donation to your favorite needy group, you will start to get additional requests, from the same group, every two of three months. Not all will do that, but some certainly do. The groups appear to share your generosity and also your email address.

If you are like me, at some point your incoming mail will be something like 40% political ads and requests to give money to politicians, another 40% from ongoing requests for money from charities, and somewhere like 10% to 20% from family and friends along with the usual bills from credit cards and utilities and so on. This is modern life. In total, the Post Office is spending at least 80% of their delivery services on promotional items not requested by me, given at deep discounts in terms of postage rates. But I digress.

At some point, it became clear to me that the requests for charitable donations were simply overwhelming. I try to be a good person and contribute to groups that are serving important needs, as well as some medical research efforts seeking cures and improvements to diseases affecting friends and family. But enough is enough! So I called on my admittedly limited spreadsheet skills; I created a simple ongoing summary of any charitable donation I made on behalf of my wife and myself. It started with the "usual suspects," all rock-solid causes such as the American Red Cross and the March of Dimes. Others were quickly added, including donations to my wife's and my undergrad colleges. Then the Central Texas Food Bank. Then Alzheimer's research (hmm, why are there more than one of these?) Habitat for Humanity was added. Then a group doing research on Parkinson's Disease, the illness that consumed my mother...then a second...and a third! Certainly, the need for a cure for Parkinson's is great, but three competing groups?

I can go on and on, up to three and a half triple-spaced pages of a spreadsheet. Of course, this includes some "No" notations, but most of them involved at least a nominal contribution. It became clear that some were dunning me, making persistent demands for payment or contributions - endlessly. To be crass, if someone sends in a check every two or three months, responding to an endless series of requests, is that person simply crazy or incompetent? A super generous dude? Enough is enough!

At least now I am somewhat in control of the charitable donations on behalf of my wife and myself. I simply tear up the every-two-or-three months requests and send something once a year. I try to understand why there are three Parkinson's Disease groups all clamoring for donations. Wouldn't it be better for them to combine forces? Oh well, it's above my pay grade at this time. I no longer feel like I am being taken advantage of by multiple requests. The groups that, to me, are deserving and align with my assessment of need and capability get a thoughtful contribution that fits our budget. And I no longer feel "used," real of not.


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Enjoy life; it's the only one we will get.

J.K. (Jim) George


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