Monday, August 20, 2012

The Limits of Charity

Brace yourself, as this may not be about what you think it is.  

For example, it's not about Corporations getting government handouts.  Nor is it about the money that corporations donate to charitable organizations either in attempts to make themselves appear less greedy or because they genuinely believe in certain causes (and the tax deductions don't suck either).  It's not even about the 'donations' that they make to government lawmakers in order to gain favorable laws or regulations to reduce the competitive nature of their corporate endeavors.  It is however, about how charities have seemingly organized themselves into corporations through whoever it is that runs their fundraising and outreach campaigns.

Some months back, I received a request to contribute to the March of Dimes for a contribution to their annual fund.  With it, I received a small quantity of return address labels.  Now I don't do much in the way of 'snail mail' these days, but I had no return address labels and I've always felt that the March of Dimes was a worthy organization; so I sent a check.  A month later I received another request and another batch of labels, and I sent yet another check; in spite of the fact that I had more labels than I could use in years.

A month later (and I believe this is where the corporate aspect rears its ugly head), I received yet another request from the March of Dimes.  This time however, it was not alone; but accompanied by one from St Jude Hospital with yet more labels.  Now St Jude was the patron saint of my grade school and I wore his medal for many years of my youth.  These recollections caused me to send yet another check to yet another of those I consider to be a worth cause, but I was beginning to mumble under my breath while writing it.  This was only the beginning however, of a deluge of return address labels and requests that followed. 

Those months saw me with literally a flood of such such labels (some including note pads).  Traditionally worthy causes like Easter Seals, the American Cancer Society, and Disabled American Veterans were mixed with requests from organizations so obscure that even now I can't remember their names.  Some of the more worthy received contributions, some of the more esoteric ... not so much.  Along with them however, I was now receiving additional monthly requests from some of those I had first supported.  

Now I like to think I'm a relatively charitable person, though I certainly don't feel myself obligated to (or limited to) a tithe. In spite of my heartless condition as an evil Conservative however, I try to support as many worthy causes as I can throughout the year.  I could not help but notice, even without the use of a tin foil hat, that the campaigns of these charitable organizations was beginning to form a decided pattern. Under the philosophy of 'no good deed goes unpunished', it seemed to me that not only were those groups reaping rewards from my generosity had reaped further rewards by selling the mailing lists of their successes (or simply sharing them internally).  Someone had run a statistical analysis and said to themselves, "This guy pays good money for return address labels ... get him!"

Such an obvious ploy and abuse of trust is, unfortunately for many of them, now reaping a return that they may not like.  The barrage of requests for funding have not only exhausted my supply of disposable incoming for such uses, but my patience as well.  I don't take kindly to being set up for a marketing ploy by the same groups that I had considered worthy of support; and rather than reaping the further rewards that their potentially admirable appeals might have expected, they are instead earning little more than my ire.

These commendable groups are not alone in this execrable practice however.  An almost identical situation has arisen where it comes to donations to worthy political causes.  As I have shared a limited generosity to charitable groups, so too have I done so with like-minded Conservative organizations.  Like their non-political counterparts however, I am now deluged daily with non-stop solicitations from one group after another telling me that the scourge of opinions that I disagree with can only be countered by additional or new contributions to their worthy efforts. 

From political parties to non-partisan groups, they too offer me tidbits and toys (like prizes in a box of Cracker Jack) as a preemptive thank you for a contribution I have yet to agree to.  Many of these too are worthy groups with worthy goals; but like the government entities and policies that they apparently want to defeat, they have yet to learn that there is only so much blood that you can get from this stone. Additionally, sharing the fact that you have received a bit of my largesse with other like-minded efforts does not increase your likelihood of doing so in the future; and will probably dilute my ability to do so.

So for all of you clever marketing groups out there attempting to increase your take through the double dipping practice of getting my money before selling my information to other bidders, I can only tell you that you hurt rather than help yourselves.  While I am happy to share what generosity I can, and while I'm more than willing to 'give til it hurts', there are still limits to Charity.  


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