From Where I Sit – To Give or Not to Give

When it was disclosed that a young bookkeeper had (allegedly) bilked Salvation Army of more than one million dollars, I didn’t call to cancel the donation debited from my bank account each month. I don’t think the illegal actions of one individual take away from the good work the organization as a whole is doing. I’m prepared to continue to support the cause. I hope restitution comes when the large house and luxury cars are seized and sold.

We’ve all heard about and experienced donor fatigue. From catastrophic natural disasters like the tsunami, earthquakes and hurricanes to the growing day-in and day-out need for food banks, women’s shelters and disease research — we’re feeling tapped-out.

Having a daughter working as a special events coordinator with the Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation has given me insight into just how hard some of these agencies and foundations work to finance their causes. The need to come up with creative fundraising projects that engage the public and actually raise some money is an ongoing challenge. Silent auctions, celebrity golf tournaments, galas, radiothons, relays, and runs are just some of the annual events that we’re asked to participate in and/or sponsor.

Ann Marie Owens, in a February 4th story in the National Post, wrote about the increasingly common approach some retailers are taking to squeeze a few more dollars out of their customers. We’ve all been approached at the cash register for what she terms “point-of-sale philanthropy” to donate a couple of dollars to some cause or another. Owens’ article talks about how creative and successful an approach this is. It also allows companies the prestige and tax advantages of being perceived as generous corporate citizens when in fact it’s their customers’ money. I, for one, hate it. I don’t like being held hostage in front of strangers and being guilted into coughing-up a few more dollars. I support the causes I choose to support and do it on my terms and not because someone’s got me in a compromising situation. With the rampant problem of credit card debt, consumers would be wise to consider what the two-dollar donation is really costing them when they make their minimum monthly payments into perpetuity.

This week I got a look at a new strategy. The Bible League is using the fear of terrorism including beheading to draw attention to religious persecution in Indonesia and of course wanting my help to eradicate this as I “read this letter in the comfort of my home in Andrew.” Number one, where’d you get my name and number two, I’m not impressed with fear mongering. Maybe this strategy works with some people, but not this kid. The highlighting of passages, photocopies of supposed stories, handwritten notes and prepaid envelope don’t impress me. Maybe it’s true, maybe they’re legit. I just don’t have to give to causes because they try to scare or shame me into it. It’s still my choice from where I sit.

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