Saturday, August 18, 2007

Charitable Misgivings

I donate regularly to the American Cancer Society and the ASPCA, and somehow wound up on "the list."

So, now, I get calls and mailers for every charity under the sun: cops, cops' families. kids, retarded kids, blind kids, blind veterans.

I was uncomfortable. I don't like telephone solicitations to begin with, and the fact that they were obscure charities I'd never heard of made me more leery. I would usually tell the person I just wasn't interested.

But then I started looking into some of them online and I was shocked at what I saw.

Almost all of these charities were indeed charitable organizations, listed with the state -- they were legitimate.

Problem is, they were only legitimate in terms of being a registered organization; how they actually spend the money is nothing but a sham.

The majority of the funds collected -- in many cases 80 percent to 90 percent -- go to "administrative costs."


You know that the only costs should be?

A desk. A chair. ... A telephone, pads, pens, envelopes and stamps. That's it. Volunteers should make the calls, get the cash, send it to the veterans.

If I donate a buck to a veterans group, and only a dime goes to the veterans, that's a worthless, losing situation. What the hell good is a dime going to do? The Fund for American Veterans gives like 4-5 percent to veterans, the rest disappears.

Not all charities work this way -- Google anyone that asks you for money, and you'll find something somewhere that tells you how much of your donation they pocket. It's disgusting.

So now, when they call, I ask them flat out how much goes to the intended recipient.

If they tell me and it's too low, I tell them they're bad people and that they can go fall in a hole.

If they say they don't know, I tell them to mail me a letter and I'll look it up, and if I find out it's too low then they, too, are bad people that should go fall in a hole.

If I want to give money away, I'm better off making a local donation in person, in cash. You should, too. It's good to give something to someone who needs it. But do it right.

If you want to help animals, find your nearest animal shelter, find out what they feed the animals, and go buy some food for them. Or cat toys. Anything.

If you want to help kids in the city, go give money to the library, or buy books at yard sales and donate them. Books are good for people, and free use of books is always a plus.

The best kind of charitable giving is when you actually give something to someone. When you give money to a group and the actual people in need don't get anything from it, you're not being charitable, you're just making yourself feel better.

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