Thursday, January 17, 2008

Ellie Mossy Nary

el·ee·mo·sy·nary, adj.
(e-li-ˈmä-sə-ˌner-ē, -ˈmō-; -ˈmä-zə-)
of, relating to, or supported by charity

For the past few years, most of my charitable donations have been directly to people: whether friends or co-workers raising money for a cause, or firemen and Misericordia volunteers at busy intersections.

But a couple months ago another charity — which addresses an illness that most commonly afflicts children, but is also increasingly common in adults — sent me some lovely address labels. I couldn't use them and not pay for them; couple this with the fact that I had long wanted to do something for this particular non-profit, and I decided to go ahead and cut them a check.

It wasn't a huge amount by any means: more than enough to cover the costs of the labels and kick a little fundage into their research.

I wish I could say my story ends there but, alas, this is just the beginning.

Now before I proceed, allow me to say that I understand non-profits send out "gifts" like that precisely because it guilts people into a donation, thereby increasing the likelihood of a response.

But I had no idea what was in store for me.

In the past 12 weeks, I have received at least one new set of address labels every week. And though I would like to report that each set comes from a different charity, in fact the vast majority (though not all) of them have been sent by the original charity to which I donated. In which case, I'm pretty sure they've essentially spent all of the money I sent to them by sending me more labels — and thus more pleas for donations.

I'm terribly conflicted about this, as I do feel an inclination to donate again. And again. And I feel like I can't use the labels in good conscience unless I pay for them. But if they keep sending to me, and I keep paying...

Here's the thing: I don't need this many labels. Heck, I bought a whole bunch when I moved last spring, and I've not even used half of that lot. And now I have hundreds more! Some Halloween themed, general fall themed, winter themed, Christmas themed (three sets from three different charities), underwater themed, rose themed and now — spring themed!

So here's my question: when is enough enough? Do I buy into their gimmick by donating every time they send me something I didn't ask for? Or do I put away my checkbook now, refusing to support a charity — no matter how good its cause or its intentions — that clearly wastes a great deal of money?

Bear in mind, I'm not a wealthy person. And I do volunteer my time, so I "give" to charities in other ways.

But on this issue, I'm torn. Feel like a jerk if I don't donate each time. And a sucker if I do.


XOXO said...

sounds like you better start sending more letters.

M@ said...

I hate the idea of paying overhead for some non-profit executive's BMW.

Btw, you can tell a lot about a person's socioeconomic status by the person's junk mail, I learned once in an advertising class. I have yet to receive even ONE letter from Mitt Romney requesting a donation. Not one.

Meh said...

My grandfather gave to several charities like that every month. It took almost six months to get them to (mostly) stop sending more in the mail after he passed away.

We still get solictations from time to time. Stop this addiction now! :)

disgruntled world citizen said...

if i were you i'd do some research. what percentage of the dollar goes to the research? how much to overhead? i'm sure you can find that information somewhere.

Woodrow said...

It just pisses me off when they send the labels. Throw them away.

I no longer give a dime to any charity or cause that solicits it from me in any way.

Give it directly to some local person or cause that needs it. That way you know 100% of your donation went to what/who you intended.

XOXO said...

Woodrow has a great idea. I know a really poor college student...

Pamela said...

If the contributions help with your tax filing - then I'm not sure how to get around it

Otherwise when you get those in the mail and feel compelled to respond, stick a money order in there and make sure your signature is obscured.

A said...

Personally I'd find some cool charity that cares for animals and lets you play with the cats...and you took pictures for.

They wont send you anything, but maybe a newsletter (that you help edit) and you can go see how they use the money.


But thats just me.

And really...IF ** I ** give to a charity, it HAS to be good!

~~ AJ

thirdworstpoetinthegalaxy said...

XOXO - I actually have thought about writing to them, explaining I'd like to give more but can't — and in the meantime, they should stop wasting their money on me. And, hey, you should start a paypal account, and then request donations on your blog. You could call it, say, "Feed a Starving Student" or something.

M@ - I'm amazed by how much non-profit executives are paid. Or how poorly many non-profits manage their funds, for that matter.

Meh - It may be too late. I received more this weekend!

DWC - There is a website, I believe. I just forget what it's called.

Woodrow - But some of them are actually kind of cool... :( But, yeah, you make a valid point. And prior to this fiasco, I was more commonly giving directly to people.

Pamela - Good advice!

AJ - I'll do what I can to help out that charity, too. But I do like to spread the love... just not in that way.