Recently the flood of junk mail I receive has seen a spike due to solicitation for charitable donations. I think I now have a couple of mails from every single church in my area. And then the local food bank, Salvation Army, veteran’s associations, children’s charities and the like. I receive at least 5 mails from charities everyday, like I’m the biggest philanthropist in the area. I resent it.
There I said it.
Now, I am not against charitable giving. I am a big proponent of giving as much as possible, but that doesn’t change the fact that I really hate receiving these mails.
- I feel my trust has been violated. These charities got my mailing address from some other charity that I donated to. I have been trying to get to the root of it and removing my name. I think I have succeeded in doing that. Almost. But now I am getting mails without a name, these are sent to everyone I guess.
- I feel manipulated. I really don’t want to see the pictures they send everyday. It is almost like they want to guilt me into giving.
- I feel bad that I cannot help everyone. Well, guilt works, what can I say.
- I feel that they are wasting money that could go to a good cause. These mails don’t even come into our house, I discard them near the mailbox before I bring the rest. That is waste of paper, waste of printing and waste of stamps!
With that said, I understand my venting is not going to change the fact that for the next 5 weeks I am going to be receiving tons of requests via every possible medium – either through mail or via social media or direct requests outside the mall.
To get me through the holiday season without going broke or guilty, every year my husband and I sit and make a charitable plan. We decide which charities will get our money that year and we stick with it.
How to figure out a plan for charitable giving?
- What’s your budget? This is extremely important. We have a separate targeted saving account and set aside a certain amount every month. This way we won’t look at a big bill that we couldn’t pay come January.
- What really matters to you? What do you value? Do you love art or animals? Do you feel a connection to a certain cause? Have you lost a loved one to a terminal illness? This would be a good time to sit and think about what is important to you.
- What kind of allocation do you prefer? This might be easy for a lot of people but for a husband and wife who have different values or if you have a lot of causes in your list it is necessary. Who gets what share? I prefer to give more to 2-3 organizations, but some people might want spread the wealth to support several organizations.
- Pick your charities wisely. There must be thousands of charities for every single cause. How do you know whether the particular charity is putting your money to a good use? There are some watchdog organizations that do a good job analyzing charities. CharityNavigator, Guidestar and BBB giving alliance are 3 places that are very useful to start that research. Make sure they are legitimate nonprofit organizations. There are some organizations that do good work but are not classified as nonprofits due to their desire to avoid the paperwork and reduce costs. Unless you know these organizations personally and can verify their work, it is probably not worth it. Any reputable organization should be able to
- Define their mission clearly and be willing to discuss their work & finances.
- Describe their achievements.
- Trust your instincts. If you still have doubts about a charity, don’t contribute to it. Instead find an organization that you are comfortable with that caters to the same cause.
Finally I want to emphasize on micro-giving. I have been increasingly giving to them, esp. to DonorsChoose (our California schools could use some help). I like it because I can personally ask questions and see the results of what was done with my money.
Whether you are planning to give time, money or your thoughts, how are you handling your giving this holiday season?
Photocredit : Vicki’s Nature