December 25, 2007
According to a CNN article, America is both a generous nation and a stingy nation. And I absolutely agree with that perception. You may want to read the entire article. It has some very interesting points.
As I read the article there must have been a dozen thoughts run through my mind. Most recently in the news is the story of the little boy named Youssif from Iraq that was deliberately set on fire by thugs. Tens of thousands of dollars are pouring in to help Youssif, most from Americans. I also think of a “poem” that once circulated the internet about America’s world wide charity. It was supposedly written by a Canadian, and it was right on point. As individual citizens, we generally do care a lot about the misfortunes of others around the world as well as in our own country.
Being charitable with my personal donations has changed over the past 20 years. I no longer give to the big organizations. And I no longer give to organizations or groups that use “professional collectors” to solicit for donations. I once gave so I could just have that warm fuzzy feeling in my stomach that I “helped”. Today I give pause to who is going to be helped and how much of my donation is actually going to be received by the intended person or persons.
Big charitable organizations such as United Ways, Red Cross, and some others that I could name have abused my generosity. Not the people at the bottom or middle, but the people at the top. Just think back over the past 18 years of the reports of top officials of these organizations that have been exposed of high living standards on donations. Sure, we can say those were the exceptions, but nothing has changed. America and the news media raised holy hell for a while, but nothing has changed. I was working for a major oil company in the 1990’s when the media exposed the high living standards of the United Way corporate people. It was so bad that for two years the company did not even “put pressure” on their employees to sign up for United Way. But after two years, it was business as usual. The implied pressure was back again, and nothing had really changed at the top of United Way. My point is that I am not going to donate to an organization whose executives are living in multi-million dollar homes, being chaffered back & forth to work in a limo, and traveling all over the world in a private jet, all on my donations, when I am struggling to make it from pay day to pay day. Theirs is a career of high living.
As for those “professional collectors”, if you are not already familiar with that scan, you should check into it. By and large, the intended organizations usually ends up with about 11 to 12 cents out of each dollar donated. The collectors gets the rest. Two stories. About 30 years ago I participated in helping a small fire department in a very small rural town in South Carolina collect donations for their fire department. Donations was their only income. They got 100 percent of the money collected. One year they decided to hire professionals to do the collecting. A couple of months later I inquired about how it went. Never again, they said! By the time we paid all the expenses we ended up with 0.11 cents out of each dollar. Second story. About three months ago I received a call from a sheriffs department asking for donations to help the family of a deputy that was killed in the line of duty. The call was from a deputy. He informed me up front that this was not a collecting agency for the department, that he was actually an active duty deputy, therefore they would get 100 percent of the donation. I donated.
Naturally there was no way for me to know for sure if the deputy was telling the truth. But my point is simply this; The scam by professional collectors has been going on for at least 30 years. And the fact that the caller voluntarily told me he was not a professional collector says that the scam by professional collectors is widely know. So while we are a generous nation of individuals, we can help the real needy a lot better if we are very careful who we give our money to.