Article Date: 6/1/2007

To Give or Not to Give
lessons learned


To Give or Not to Give

It's not always easy to decide where your charity contributions should go.

Our research indicates you have never donated to our charity," said one of its volunteers to a wealthy attorney.

"Did your research also indicate that my mother is dying after a long, painful illness and has huge medical bills?" he responded. "Or that my brother is confined to a wheelchair and unable support his wife and six children? Or that my sister's husband died, leaving her penniless with two disabled children who require a huge array of expensive private tutors?"

"I'm so sorry," replied the crestfallen volunteer. "I had no idea."

"So if I didn't give any money to them," continued the lawyer, "what makes you think I'd give any to you?"

Pick and choose

It's either because I have become more crotchety as I get older and view things with a more jaundiced eye, or because the world is becoming crazier, but I think this story helps illustrate that often charity just doesn't seem as charitable as it used to be.

The reason may be that many charities seem to have become big business high-pressure outfits. This is one of the things that makes it more difficult to select the organizations to which your office contributions should go.

For example, I had always given a fairly substantial yearly contribution to a national charity, which I will not name in order to protect the guilty. I have come to think in the last couple of years that this has done nothing but place me on their sucker list. They continually bombard and harass me by mail and phone for further contributions. The mail I don't mind too much, but the endless phone calls often come smack in the middle of my after-lunch nap.

Home for wayward cats?

Many folks seem to find it easier to just give $10 or $20 to every solicitation they receive, whether it's to something worthwhile, or to the Home for Wayward Cats. Instead, I've found I can be more effective in my giving by selecting a few charities that I know are worthwhile, giving more generously to them, and refusing the rest.

I found this was easiest accomplished by making out a charity budget at the beginning of the year, selecting the total amount I thought I should give and where it should go.

"I'm sorry but we've already made out our charity budget for the year," can then be your answer to requests to which you don't want to respond. "If you'll send me information about your organization, we'll be happy to consider you for next year's budget."

I'm always afraid that solicitors will think I'm a cheapskate if I turn them down. The yearly budget method makes a good "chicken" excuse for refusing.

How do you know?

With all the sharpies in today's society, you often don't know if the cause for which they're soliciting is legitimate.

"I'm collecting contributions for the Widow Jones," a man appealed to me. "She is ill with no income, has three small children and is going to be evicted from her apartment tomorrow unless she can come up with her rent payment."

"That's awfully nice of you to be concerned about her welfare," I said. "You must be a very good friend of hers."

"No," he replied. "I'm her landlord."OM


Optometric Management, Issue: June 2007