If the U.S.
Congress would make the kinds of budget cuts to help the country
that Mom made to help the poor, America would be in pretty good
shape, even if every politician had to eat spaghetti every night.
Now I'm experiencing guilt while culling the tsunami of donation
requests that surge into my mailbox at this time of year. Where
will my donations do the most good? I lean toward those that do
not send me a gift and bill me for it later. Sure, I need a calendar
or two, but not over 20. Some organizations send yet another envelope
with the words "SECOND REQUEST" or "URGENT." When I see that, it
scares me like maybe I didn't pay the electric bill or something,
so I tear it open, only to find it's from a charity. Those sticker-return
address labels aren't always accurate, and are useless. On top of
that, I've received "gifts" of three 50Ę pieces, several quarters,
and two actual checks. If they want my money, why are they sending
There are organizations that allot big chunks of donations to "compensation
of leaders" and "marketing" or "fundraising." I compared the salary
of one famous charity's CEO (over $500,000 and a Mercedes) with
another ($12,000 and a Chevy), information which helped me decide,
thanks to Charity Navigator.
My criteria is elastic; it changed from human to animal causes,
and this year, I'm donating to organizations that train animals
to help veterans, and to small groups that work their hearts out
and don't spend money on TV commercials, are staffed with volunteers,
and 100% (or close) of donations go directly to the cause itself.
I donate even if it isn't tax deductible, because, in most cases,
I've visited them to see for myself all the good they do.
I ponder what Mom would do when a charity I've sent $25. to in the
past now sends me an envelope containing printed donation request
boxes starting with $1,000. Are they telling me my $25. was too
little? How rude. I phoned them and was told their computers must
have spewed out the wrong plea, that they have prepared letters
for different donor classes. See you around, buddy. Then there are
those who ask to be included in your Will. I tell them to call my
kids and if it's all right with them, it's all right with me.
Desperate, I tried to end the growing volume of requests by clutching
a New Orleans fetish and writing "Deceased. Return to Sender" on
the envelopes. This turned out to be some bad juju. The karmic consequence
was they sent more requests to my house addressed to "Resident."
While Mom's guilt encouraged her to donate money we couldn't easily
afford, I've come up with a win-win antidote: the U.S.P.S. Money
Order. That gets my donation to needy organizations, frees donors
from the bondage of guilt; and helps the troubled U.S.Postal Service
(there's a small charge, plus buying a stamp). Mail the Money Order
to the charity anonymously. To compensate the charity for fees lost
by selling/renting/lending our names and addresses to other charities,
they'll save what they now spend on donor "gifts." And we still
get a tax deduction.
Or maybe I'll just send each charity a note stating that they guilted
me so badly, I couldn't sleep, and I've enclosed a check for $1.00.
If I still can't sleep, I'll send more.
"A Balloon In Cactus"
December 10, 2016 column