‘Tis the season. To be jolly? Maybe. But it’s also the season for charitable appeals.
As I did last year, I began stockpiling the mail that came in since January 1 (well, technically, since January 2, because there was no mail delivery on the first). My point is that from the beginning of the year, a box in my clothes closet has been rapidly filling up with third-class mail, each piece of mail asking for a piece of me. I have no idea how many envelopes of virtually every size imaginable are now in that box, but the truth is that most of them aren’t even IN the box now. The largest ones, few in number, are sitting vertically on the floor between the box and the wall. The rest make up the majority of the pile, which sticks up probably two feet above the top edge of the box. In another couple of weeks I’ll categorize each piece, identify how many mailings came with return address labels and other kinds of “free gifts” (that phrase always amused me – it’s redundant, you know. If something is a gift, of course, it’s free. Otherwise it wouldn’t be a gift, it would be a purchase), and so forth, and then send the results to the folks who receive my “Monday Morning Mailing.”
But I digress. There is a significant amount of money represented in all those envelopes. The post office expects to get paid for delivering them. And, prior to that, there’s the cost of composing, printing, and preparing them for distribution. This is all money that comes from the donations they receive for whatever good cause they represent. In other words, only a portion of what is sent to them actually gets to the “mission.” The majority covers overhead.
As if being the recipient of all that paper weren’t enough, it seems that my email address has been liberally shared among online mailers. This was never more evident than today (Tuesday, December 1st, otherwise known as “Giving Tuesday”). At one point this morning for a good ten to fifteen minutes I was receiving an appeal every minute. Click! Click! Click! I could hear them arriving in rapid-fire succession while noting the time stamps on each one.
Everybody has their hand out in my direction. “Gimme, gimme gimme!” The charitable organizations specialize in pushing the guilt button (“somebody is going to suffer if you don’t give to us”). They all make a point of arguing for why they’re the most needy, most urgent, most deserving group to support. And, as an extra incentive, they will often tell you that someone has come forward to match your gift, sometimes as much as four times the amount of your donation, if you send something before such-and-such a dealine. I mean, how can anyone say no?
Well, I’ll tell you how. For me, it has gotten to the point of saturation. There are simply too many requests to say yes to every one of them. Given the resources I have in my discretionary fund, were I to send something to every appeal, they would each probably end up with a buck-ninety-eight. Will I support any of them? Sure. But I’ll pick and choose very carefully, with a priority list that I use each year that puts my church and alma maters toward the top, followed by those groups with whom we have had personal dealings (certain hospitals, for example, who have treated our kids; that kind of thing). Next are the groups working to support issues I believe in (veterans’ organizations, those providing help to persons with special needs, climate advocates, wildlife preservation groups, etc.). By then, there’s not usually anything left.
Supporting charitable groups is more difficult for me these days for another reason: being retired, I am asked to do virtually no weddings or funerals any more, services for which families would offer an honorarium. Ten percent of those honoraria would go in my “charitable” envelope, and I would spread whatever was in it by the end of the year to the interests mentioned in the previous paragraph. Alas, charitable giving has come out of my pension for the past eight years and will likely continue to do so.
As for those appeals that I turn down, I’ve grown immune. Somebody somewhere will undoubtedly send something. I can’t be responsible for supporting every last one. Besides, except for the groups I do support, I’m not even sure how legit they are. So, the mail piles up. The collective begging provides an interesting end-of-the-year report (because most of us really have no idea how many appeals we get in the course of a year). I’m sure that our family is no different from anyone else’s – what we get is probably what you get. So, if you’ve read to the end, now you know.