Dear Worthwhile Charities:
I understand your need for money. Indeed, times are tight for all of us. We all must step up to the plate and help our fellow man/woman. I give regularly to several charities, and have for many years, the primary two being Habitat for Humanity and Komen Breast Cancer Research. I understand that if I give you $10 one year, I am on your mailing list for the rest of my life. I appreciate your return-address stickers, your labels, your little cards, your calendars, and your heartfelt letters stating your cases.
I remember a letter to an advice columnist a few years ago from a lady who received such "gifts" in the mail. She said she felt guilty keeping them if she didn't send any money back, but was she supposed to just throw them away? The columnist said the items had not been solicited, and therefore were hers to keep and do whatever she wanted with them.
Knowing that I cannot possibly send money to every charity that writes me, I have to selectively choose which ones to support. For every one I support, there are at least 30 more of you that send me solicitations. It seems like such a waste - you are paying for envelopes, paper, plus your little "gifts," and I am sending you nothing. I guess it is just a risk you take. Maybe you feel that people are more likely to send money when they receive a little nicety.
But this year you have gone too far. You are sending me nickels and dimes. You state, "Just send this nickel/dime back to us with your check." Now this really upsets me because it puts me in a quandary. I don't like quandaries. I like to do the right thing. I certainly don't like guilt. Yet, here I am with these nickels and dimes. I can't afford to support your charity, so I can't send a check, yet I have your nickel or dime. I don't really see the value in paying 43 cents postage to mail back your 10 cents. I certainly can't throw it away.
I'm sure you started this gem of salesmanship because your marketing guys thought it was a great idea to pour on the guilt. I'm sure they did research that says people will feel guilty enough to write a check twice as fast if they get a nickel or dime than if they get some labels. You are deliberately putting people in a quandary. I may not be able to afford to donate to your causes, but I certainly don't want to take money from you instead!
So here is my compromise. We are keeping a jar of all the nickels and dimes from you good charities that we receive. When the Salvation Army bell ringers appear, we will take the jar and drop its contents in their kettle. That way, the money still stays in the charity realm. It just changes hands.
Now, honorable charities, I would really appreciate it if you ask your marketing guys to use their collective genius and think of another way to ask for donations, because your current method is not playing fair with our consciences. Take a cue from our Good Shepherd Food Bank here in Maine. They sent me a 3 x 5 card with an envelope. No gifts, no gadgets, no guilt. In 12 precise sentences, it states the facts of their need far greater than your 2-page letters and stickers. I am sending them a check next week.
Keep up your good work, my friends. I hope you prosper. But please - nix the coins. Thanks.
Carol Tiffin James