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The unfortunate consequence of the "hard sell" of the modern charity

By gr3y in Op-Ed
Sat Nov 30, 2002 at 07:09:06 AM EST
Tags: etc (all tags)

It's that time of year again, and very soon many of us will probably be making charitable contributions to well-known charities.

This thread on www.fuckedcompany.com leads me to believe that my experience with the March of Dimes Foundation this year was not atypical, and also introduced me to something called "reverse donating" which takes advantage of the fact that some non-profits aggressively solicit additional contributions that drain far more of the organization's financial resources than was originally donated, and which is a very real consequence of aggressive solicitation tactics.

Last year, I made a contributions to the March of Dimes Foundation (MoDF) in December. I mailed, with my donation, a short note stating that:

  1. I wished my donation to be anonymous,
  2. I did not wish to receive additional solicitations from the MoDF,
  3. I did not wish to receive solicitations from charities that MoDF believes "might be of interest to me", and
  4. all unsolicited mail from MoDF or any of its charitable "partners" would be immediately thrown away.

Imagine my surprise when I began receiving mailings from MoDF at the frequency of one about every thirty days. After a few months of this (in March or April of this year), I sent MoDF a letter asking them to remove my name and address from their mailing list. I have since sent essentially the same letter (with minor alterations) four (FOUR!) times, with no success. It seems there is no reasonable course of action.

Because of this, I'm now of the opinion that some charities have become too aggressive, because there doesn't seem to be much value to a modest contribution after the cost of additional solicitations for contributions is accounted for. The MoDF envelopes I received were stuffed with self-adhesive address labels, two or three page letters (double-sided), and self-addressed envelopes. It probably only cost twenty-five cents to mail the envelope, but printing the address labels was an additional expense, toner costs money, and by all accounts the cost of paper is increasing, so the total cost was substantial (I estimate ~$1.50 - $2.00).

I'm wondering if this is the way of things to come, or if a little feedback now might prevent charitable organizations from adopting the philosophy of corporate America, which of late seems to greatly desire the opportunity to confront me with "targeted" and "relevant" advertising1 at any and all times of the day and on every horizontal or vertical surface on which it is possible to place advertising on the theory that it is necessary to maintain a competitive advantage. In my experience, the "competitive advantage" afforded by extensive advertising has not resulted in lower prices or increased savings on the part of the manufacturer, which are passed on to the consumer in the form of lower prices. In fact, I believe the cost of the additional advertising more than offsets the additional revenue gained, and that any "savings" are not real and on paper only.

Because of its overly aggressive attitude, I will not be making a donation to MoDF this year, or likely for many years to come. I feel they wasted the donation I made asking for additional donations, and that an additional donation will only serve to reinforce the notion that the overly aggressive marketing of the MoDF "brand" is necessary for the organization to survive, and that is a philosophy I would rather not see non-profits in America embrace.

Do not mistake me. I am not saying that I think the mission of the MoDF is not worthy. I simply don't feel that my contribution made a difference. The money I donate is being spent to solicit more donations from me, so the net gain by the organization is zero. In other words, the money I donate is being used to purchase more advertising, of which I am the sole target. I prefer to donate money to an organization that has a more immediate need of it for other priorities.

If I had donated, say, five or ten dollars to MoDF and they had sent me twelve envelopes (one year's worth) with a total value in excess of that, I would effectively be draining money from the organization. It wouldn't be significant in itself, however the combined effect of hundreds of thousands of such donations would be significant indeed, if every one were pursued so aggressively.

Some of the posters to the thread above referred to this as "reverse donating", and it's the first I'd ever heard of it. To my mind, the fact that it is popular enough to be known by multiple posters, and have its own phrase to describe it, is an acknowledgement that my characterization is accurate, and that some non-profits have gotten completely out of hand. I am forced to consider that a greater percentage of all donations flows out of a non-profit than is necessary because those organizations do not have clear priorities.

I would like to present an alternate model of solicitation by non-profits, in contrast to the first, above. I also made donations to National Public Radio (NPR) last year, once at each pledge drive.

I listened to NPR for a year before that to determine if it was worth supporting, and decided that it was well worth supporting, because I now listen to NPR almost exclusively. During their spring pledge drive I called and made my pledge. The woman I spoke to asked me if I wanted my name to be released over the air. I told her, "no thank you", and then told her that I did not want my name to be shared with any other entity, and she assured me that would not happen. To my knowledge, it hasn't happened. I receive a quarterly newsletter from NPR, but that's it.

Admittedly, NPR's website states that NPR does not directly solicit contributions, and that this is a long-standing board policy. It states that direct mail and telephone solicitations are at member stations' prerogative, and our local NPR station has not attempted to contact me, in obeyance of my stated wishes. In my opinion, this is an enlightened policy that other charities would do well to consider adopting.

Because of their stance on direct solicitations, and the fact that they have not (to my knowledge) shared my name or address, I will be donating to my local NPR member station in the future. As stated before, I will not be donating money to MoDF for a few years, at least, or until they publicly announce that they will cease aggressively soliciting contributions, and, in my view, foolishly wasting money donated for other purposes.


1. I maintain that the use of the words "targeted" and "relevant" with respect to advertising is an oxymoron.


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Have you experienced what you would consider to be overly aggressive solicitation on the part of a non-profit?
o Yes 81%
o No 13%
o Maybe 5%

Votes: 76
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o This thread
o www.fucked company.com
o states
o Also by gr3y

Display: Sort:
The unfortunate consequence of the "hard sell" of the modern charity | 149 comments (148 topical, 1 editorial, 0 hidden)
I worked in a charity call center (4.70 / 10) (#1)
by grahamsz on Fri Nov 29, 2002 at 09:27:53 PM EST

Some charities and NPO's which we handled were spending insane amounts of money paying for our services.

I believe the worst i heard was an non-profit org which was consistently getting a 130% ROI on our services. Sounds great until you realise that when someone donates, 77% of it was spend soliciting that donation.

Of course we were required to give the standard disclaimer - "I am legally required to tell you that I am paid a small fee to make this call" - We were of course on a little above minimum wage and most people weren't offended by this.

However, this form of fundraising does work for some organisations - One charity in particular raised hundreds of times more cash than each call cost. They had something like a 75% response rate to the call and about half of those people follow through and recruit another donor.
Sell your digital photos - I've made enough to buy a taco today

When I Grow Up I Want To Be An Activist (none / 0) (#110)
by SEWilco on Mon Dec 02, 2002 at 09:05:06 AM EST

It is interesting to see how often there are ads by organizations seeking to hire for "Activism". Let's see.. yesterday's paper says $300-500/wk for Greenpeace and Sierra Club.

[ Parent ]
Why is that interesting? (none / 0) (#133)
by Maurkov on Mon Dec 02, 2002 at 07:38:20 PM EST

It's economics. If I want to support a cause, but my time is worth more to my employer than it to my cause, I would be wise to work extra for my employer and contribute the money I make. They can use the money to buy more labor than I could contribute directly.

On the labor side, there are plenty of people who are ideologically motivated, but cant afford unemployment while off supporting their cause. Here they are offered the opportunity to work (get paid) for a cause they want to work (provide labor) for. I'd be interested if I could afford to earn so little.

Sorry to flame, but I hate this kind of comment. If you want to make an accusation, come out and say something. Provide some support for it. Allow others to challenge it, and to debate it at a rational level. To do otherwise does us a disservice.


[ Parent ]
I feel a song coming on... (none / 0) (#136)
by LilDebbie on Mon Dec 02, 2002 at 08:34:31 PM EST

"...for Wendy I'll be an activist too, cause that's what Brian Boitano'd do!"

My name is LilDebbie and I have a garden.
- hugin -

[ Parent ]
I suspect what they mean (none / 0) (#137)
by grahamsz on Mon Dec 02, 2002 at 09:46:15 PM EST

is for people to do door-to-door or street collections supporting the cause.

One of the organisations I worked for had ocassional voluteers who would collect close to a thousand dollars in a week doing that sort of thing.

If paid 'activists' could be as profitable then this is probably one of the more cost-effective ways to raise funds.

Although most (coerced) voluteers raised more like $25.

Some people prefer to give time, others prefer to give money - charities need both.
Sell your digital photos - I've made enough to buy a taco today
[ Parent ]

March of Dimes (4.40 / 10) (#2)
by Bad Harmony on Fri Nov 29, 2002 at 09:40:41 PM EST

According to my mother, the March of Dimes was originally a charity that funded research for a cure for polio. Polio was a major source of anxiety in America. Parents would keep their children away from public swimming pools, out of fear that they might catch the disease. After the invention of the Salk and Sabine vaccines, the March of Dimes had fulfilled its mission. Instead of closing up shop, the March of Dimes changed its mission to the prevention of birth defects. A cynic might think that this was an example of how many charities evolve into bureaucracies with goals that have little to do with their original mission.

54º40' or Fight!

I feel very cynical right now.. (5.00 / 1) (#33)
by TCaptain on Sat Nov 30, 2002 at 09:06:50 AM EST

Because I suspect that you're on to something there...and part of me wonders if the goal of any of these big charities will now EVER be attained (I mean since reaching the goal, such as curing lung cancer for example, would put a LOT of paid executives out of work...just because its a non-profit corporation, doesn't mean the big kahunas up top don't get paid a good salary).

Hello, my name is PID 12759. You "kill -9"ed my parent. Prepare to die. - ENOENT

[ Parent ]
To make it worse (5.00 / 2) (#44)
by godix on Sat Nov 30, 2002 at 02:19:40 PM EST

it's not just medical charities that are do this. As an example, MADD wanted .10 blood alcohal drinking & driving laws (in IL, although I'm sure they pushed for it nationally) and they got it. Then they pushed for .08 and got it. Last I heard they're pushing for .06 now.

Compare the issues of black rights when NAACP was started and today. Similarly look at NOW. In fact the only organization I don't see doing this is the NRA, and that's beause they aren't trying to do anything, they're trying to stop others from doing something.

There reachs a point where you want to look at an orgainzation and say 'You won, congradulations, throw a party and get the hell out of my face'.

The US government even gets in on the act, the problem is they don't even solve the initial problem like charities do. We've been fighting poverty for 40 years now and the only thing we have out of it is housing projects (the % of poor people in the USA is roughly the same as before we started welfare). Of crouse instead of quitting or trying something else politicians want to throw even more money at it.

I'd almost consider it a universal law, any organization designed to fix a problem will rarely actually fix it and will NEVER admit that it has been fixed.

- An egotist is someone who thinks they're almost as good as I am.
[ Parent ]

Speaking as one... (none / 0) (#118)
by unDees on Mon Dec 02, 2002 at 11:12:37 AM EST

Speaking as a board member for a struggling charity with no money and no paid positions at all, I would love for our work to be done and to be able to close up shop. Not that it hasn't been rewarding, but we're doing all this work to solve a problem--the reason we're here is to make it go away. There are plenty of other causes to which I could still give my time and money if that day ever came.

That having been said, I'm afraid you're right when you say that many problems have no solution in sight. To take your example, will poverty ever be fully "wiped out?" It would be nice to have some measurable goals, such as the percentage of people living under the poverty line, or even the number of people helped. Even though the idea of every person on earth living in comfort is probably unattainable, there are those who would argue that helping lower the number of people living in poverty is better than doing nothing.

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[ Parent ]

Why does this bother you? (5.00 / 1) (#122)
by lorcha on Mon Dec 02, 2002 at 01:11:34 PM EST

I'm a little curious why accomplishing their mission means they should go away. I mean, if they accomplish their goals, that means they are a successful charity that can get things done, right? Why not have them take on a new mission since they already have the infrastructure and brand-name recognition in place?

As long as they are honest with the public about what their current mission is and where the donations are going, it doesn't bother me if they change after a mission is completed.

צדק--אין ערבים, אין פיגועים
[ Parent ]

From the March of Dimes 2002 annual report (4.70 / 10) (#3)
by jij on Fri Nov 29, 2002 at 09:49:19 PM EST

Which is here - about 24.8% of revenues(donations) in 2001 were spent on management and fund-raising, fund-raising being 2/3  and management expenses 1/3 of that 25% (assuming I have calculated it correctly, of course).  The total revenue for 2001 was $218,298,000.
The above linked PDF file is 726k in size, most of it graphics.

"people who thinks quotes are witty are fucking morons" - turmeric

The phrase "total revenue" is the issue, (5.00 / 3) (#68)
by gr3y on Sat Nov 30, 2002 at 08:25:07 PM EST

In fact, I calculated their total overhead at 25.3%, as follows:

From their 2001 Annual Report:

Management expenses: $17.62 million.
Fund raising: $36.721 million.
Total revenue: $214.38 million (unrestricted only).

Based on these numbers: 8.2% of their total revenue was spent on management, and 17.1% of their total revenue was spent on fund raising, for a grand total of 25.3% overhead (if you include temporarily and permanently restricted revenue, this percentage is lower).

However, I noticed that MoDF (and none of the other charities whose financials I scanned) does not list all the different sources of revenue which, combined, are represented as "net campaign contributions and sponsorships", and that the phrase "total revenue" is therefore misleading under these circumstances.

If we are comparing the cost of fund raising from private individuals to the revenue received, surely the "total revenue" we are interested in is the revenue received from those solicitations, and not the revenue received from corporate sponsorships, challenge grants, and the like.

But the MoDF's financials are not transparent, and there is no way to calculate the value of a dollar spent on fund raising from the given numbers. I suspect this is intentional, that MoDF can track this information, and probably does but does not publish it.

I further suspect that the greater part of their total revenue is corporate sponsorships, and that the cost of raising those funds is much lower than the cost of raising funds from private individuals, by several orders of magnitude. By this I do not intend to say that private individuals should abdicate all responsibility for those charitable organizations they choose to support, leaving it up to corporations to carry the load; but that my suspicions are correct and that there is little value to a modest donation when the cost of raising that donation is accounted for, given the aggressive tactics of some charities.

I find this situation discouraging, to say the least, because I have no wish for non-profits in general to become reliant on corporate subsidies.

Then again, I'm forced to ask myself why any given charity must pay for all the projects it undertakes - bigger is not necessarily better. Presently I'm wondering if some of them haven't taken on too many "program services", because they simply have too much money to manage effectively. I expect a non-profit to shepherd every dollar donated for the maximum benefit, not to throw my money away asking for additional money because they know the rate of return is better with corporate sponsors, and they'll ultimately be able to meet their obligations with corporate sponsorships, etc., alone.

I am a disruptive technology.
[ Parent ]

Big File Spends Money (none / 0) (#109)
by SEWilco on Mon Dec 02, 2002 at 08:52:19 AM EST

Note that the big PDF for that entire report requires that they spend more on Internet bandwidth than if they "spent" a little of a web editor's time to offer the same info on several HTML pages.

Of course, if you really care about that you can rearrange their presentation and donate such HTML files back to them...

[ Parent ]

Geometric Overhead Growth (4.61 / 13) (#4)
by Peahippo on Fri Nov 29, 2002 at 10:00:01 PM EST

I saw this recently on FC's associated site www.postget.com. I find the entire topic maddening; hence, I must first spout off on the topic and will cover editing in some other posting.

It all has to do with the yuppies.

I have personally watched a small charity get hit with the yuppie trend. It is inexorable and deplorable; you'll never get them to understand their own, vast failure. Once the charity gets its hands on money, it tends to seek out more of it. That might seem okay, but they tend to hire the yuppie class to get that done. Yuppies don't understand how to control costs, particularly when the costs involved are the ones associated with their own hiring, outfitting, maintenance and finally golden parachutes.

This is why almost all of the large charities are eaten up with administrative costs. They are poster children for parasitical bureaucracies. Calling them "not for profit" is Orwellian in that they exist so that the yuppies in them can have good salaries for doing almost nothing real.

So, there's this immense internal hunger for money. Where do they get more? Well, to a charity, people who donate are the ones most likely to donate again. Your name is very valuable; there's little point in going elsewhere for money since they know that -- statistically -- you're good for more of it.

As economic times get harder on average, people stop being so charitable in general, and this causes the charity with the overstuffed payroll and expense accounts to get the squeeze. This squeeze is a redoubled pressure, since in harder times, the charity actually has to make good on its charity promises with all those homeless, hungry and sick people (you know, the people it was supposed to help in the first place). In short, as the charity gets larger, it takes on more and more overhead, and thus stores up nothing for the harder times when it's most needed. But "need" is an exercise in PR; the real need in a large charity is to make its payroll.

If you want to be charitable, begin at home. Once your relatives and friends are stable, then give to their relatives and friends. Try not to "pay someone back" -- instead, "pay it forward". If you are really only 6 people away ("degrees of separation") from anyone on Earth, then that's how you do some real good. Write it all as tax deductions anyway. If you get audited (a rare event), the auditors might disallow the deductions. It's a risk, sure, but the alternative is to support some desk-entrenched yuppies ... and they need to find out about how real work is done in a real economy.

you are so right (4.50 / 4) (#17)
by tweetsygalore on Sat Nov 30, 2002 at 03:41:05 AM EST

re "This is why almost all of the large charities are eaten up with administrative costs." charities should be a place where their execs and admimistrators give and not a place where they enrich themselves. but that IS just my personal view, of course, and i AM a bit of an Idealist. best, C
After each perceived security crisis ended, the United States has remorsefully realised that the abrogation of civil liberties was unnecessary. But it has proven unable to prevent itself from repeating the error when the next crisis comes along. --- Justice William Brennan
[ Parent ]
Yuppies? (4.33 / 3) (#35)
by jefu on Sat Nov 30, 2002 at 10:46:45 AM EST

I didn't see anything in your article that really linked this behavior and yuppies, so I'm confused.

In any case, I believe it has more to do with organizations and the way they develop and grow than with anything else.

Organizations may start with a goal, but before long their goal is survival and growth. The people involved probably still consider that the true purpose of the organization is the original purpose, but if you were to ask most of them, they'd probably put keeping their job first - and to keep their job the system must continue to exist and do (at least) ok.

On a related note, I lived in Africa - out in the boonies a bit - for a couple of years and I will not give any money to any organizations that purport to serve the third world. One of my favorites was the american religious sect that would send barrels of clothes to their missionaries who would then sell them - sometimes a barrel at a time. Then too, I got to dislike and distrust missionaries of almost all flavors.

[ Parent ]

Yes, Yuppies! (none / 0) (#72)
by Peahippo on Sat Nov 30, 2002 at 09:06:43 PM EST

Don't see the link? No problem, I'll have to point out the trees that comprise the forest that you're perhaps so enamored with.

The small charitable organization -- devoted to the goals of providing a service to the misfortunate -- generally starts out with people who are caring and connected. As times goes on, the cultural sickness of "need[ing] to look professional" hits more and more, as the organization expands and more people are encountered, particularly with the perceived need to hit up the wealthy for funds. Professional (for most practices) means "people with degrees", and so a new level of salary expectations are reached.

So, the hiring breaks into tiers. In effect, it becomes very sensitive to classes of people. People who would have been otherwise qualified for the jobs (caseworker sticks the most in my mind) are turned away, or they are kept in the manual-laborer partition (janitor, secretary, temp labor). (Later on, the disease of professionalism usually expands to absorb the secretarial positions too.)

So yuppies inevitably show up. Their degrees have opened the door into the workplace that their experience and connections wouldn't have otherwise have opened. They bring little experience (the "young" part of young urban professional), yet do bring a lot of expectations of self worth. This translates into salary, benefits, parties, expense accounts, conference trips, etc. They "need" their own desks, coffee/water/soda machines, comfy chairs, copy machines, fax machines, computers, Internet access, pagers, cell phones ... shit, do I really need to describe all of the expenses that the yuppies can dream up for the company or organization to pay for? We can emplace the Aeron chair as the icon upon this particular shrine of conspicuous consumption.

Through these kinds of forces and demands, yuppies drive up expenses without a commenserate contribution of value. The dotcom fiasco was an example of that, albeit extreme. But you could well argue that if the dotcoms weren't business-planned as profitable enterprises, and were instead planned as stock- and salary-enrichment schemes, then the yuppies in them were well worth every penny spent on them.

Your comment of "keeping their job first" struck a chord with me. I recall talking with a glass furnace tender about his job. He asserted that his job was to tend the furnace. I corrected him in saying that it was his job to MAKE GLASS. Along with all the others in the chain of labor that produced a piece of glassware for someone's table, it was his overall and overriding responsibility to make sure that that piece of glassware got to its intended user. Concentrating on "tending the furnace" just leads to costing others in the chain the ability to effectively do their jobs. It creates feifdoms within companies, and therefore people slug it out for territory.

Job concentration is another hallmark of the yuppie class, but I freely admit it is a disease that affects the blue collar sector as well. I sense in your words that you agree that j.c. can destroy the goals of a company or org. At best, the fiefdoms collect into self-perpetuating kingdoms.

In closing, I can only thank you for your viewpoint on the African-missionary connection. It is anecdotes like that are wholly lacking in the popular view of charitable organizations. The United Way and others like it -- including many churches -- have overwhelming power to control public perception. We need to speak the truth as we see it, whenever a public forum can take the time to hear us.

[ Parent ]
Ah, I see (none / 0) (#125)
by jefu on Mon Dec 02, 2002 at 01:41:30 PM EST

I suspect that we are far more in agreement than otherwise, but that we may be ascribing causes differently. And while I do like forests (the natural ones) I'm not sure I'm as much fond of this forest as fascinated by it.

While this thread is mostly about charities, I think that many of the causes are endemic to human organizations in general (corporations, universities, clubs...).

I tend to try to follow the motto "Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity" - but where I'll define (for this purpose) stupidity as being "having constrained understanding of the universe". (That needs a longer definition, but let it stand.) While this does not preclude difference in viewpoint or in the underlying model for individual perception of the world (ie the educated vs uneducated, ethnicity 1 vs ethnicity 2, culture 1 vs culture 2, left brain vs right brain), I think the effects of such in an organizational context are less important than might be thought, almost completely irrelevant.

Organizations, however constructed, tend to end up being filled with people. People have legitimate self-interest and often act to maintain or better their personal status (think job, salary, health, family, health and the like rather than sociological "status"). This self-interest often extends to include the organization of which they are a part.

When a person becomes part of an organization, they follow the organization's rules - rules which are both explicit and implicit - even hidden. More exactly, an individual follows the organizations rules as they apply to that individual, in that individuals specific role, and most importantly, as those rules are filtered through the individual's perceptions of the world. And they act on information that is filtered through the organization and its communications channels and through the individuals (inherently noisy in the communications sense) perceptual system.

So, how does this apply to what you wrote?

I think the furnace tender is the most apt example. He perceives his job as tending the furnace. In the wider sense, his job is to make glass, but things outside his current domain are unlikely to be things he can affect. The three paragraphs which follow seem to me to be different components of a process that will narrow a persons perception of his/her part in an organization.

Imagine the following scenario. He suggests to someone more involved in the actual construction of the glass that some variable - perhaps involving the furnace - be changed - and he has a good reason for this suggestion. He is told that that is not his job. So what else should he conclude? His job is the furnace and nothing else. He cannot take responsibility for anything else in the organizational structure as it stands.

A more subtle, yet probably vastly more important, part of the process seems to have to do with information accessiblity. The person who tends the furnace has a relatively high bandwidth and non-noisy connection to the furnace and its workings, and lower bandwidth (and noisier, lossier...) connections to other parts of the glassmaking process. Over time, the other parts of the process are likely to become not only less important, but less real to that person.

A third factor is that actions have consequences that can affect both the person taking the action and those around him/her. The fact that it can affect those around the person leads them to discourage risky actions - even if only by telling anecdotal accounts of previous goofs. In many organizations too, actions often have very non-symmetric payoffs - a good choice often leads to no payoff for the individual, but a bad choice may lead to a serious negative payoff.

Put these together and I think we have the basis for a model that can explain many of the observations in your post - but without necessarily ascribing blame or responsibility to any particular group.

I have come to believe that every organization over some size (and I think there is a size at which there is a kind of phase transition) is inevitably moving in a direction where individual roles will be shaped in this way. That is, each individual believes that their job is the most crucial part of the process - as thats the part that they see best; they know, personally, how it can go wrong. Because they see their action as contributing importantly (its important to them so must be to the organization) to the overall organizational goals; they are personally responsible for what they do in a way that they cannot be for other actions in the organization.

This all says, as you've undoubtdly noticed, that job concentration is a serious problem. But I also find myself wondering if there is any way to avoid it. Notice too that those who step out of narrowly defined job roles are often perceived as troublemakers and generally difficult people - meddling in things they have no business in.

I think your bit about the yuppies has more to do with the way the United States is now using universities (inappropriately, I believe) as gateways to employment at certain levels. Now consider the human resources folks. Their job (selecting candidate employees) is the most important thing going on in the organization. So they must pick the best candidates - and by current standards that often requires hiring people with college degrees - your yuppies. A second factor is that if they go outside organization guidelines and take a chance on someone the consequences are likely to land on them. Once there are a certain number of people in the organization with degrees, they tend to see degrees as being invariably a Good Thing and the cycle continues.

And, of course they need the computers, faxes, offices, windows.... (Well, everyone needs windows, I think.) These things are what they've learned are necessary for doing their jobs well, and their jobs are (after all) the Most Important Contribution to the organization - indeed their jobs are the Crucial, Essential Lynchpin of the Whole Place. (And I'll not even begin to delve into the wonders of the usual budget process which rewards spenders and punishes the thrifty.)

And to misquote Tom Lehrer :
You've yourselves to blame if its too long, you should never have let me begin, begin, you should never have let me begin.

[ Parent ]

Tax Issues (5.00 / 3) (#36)
by rkent on Sat Nov 30, 2002 at 11:20:09 AM EST

Write it all as tax deductions anyway. If you get audited (a rare event), the auditors might disallow the deductions.

As the son of an accountant, I have some advice to offer here: donating to family and friends, while nice, is NOT tax deductible.  Actually, there's an exception; if you are fabulously wealthy, you can "grant" up to $10,000 per year to a family member, tax free, no questions asked.

But beyond that, the organization you donate to MUST be officially non-profit, and have papers to back it up (is 503(c) the pertinent tax code? I'm not sure).  If you try to deduct money donated to a non-charitable organization / person, you will be nailed for tax fraud, and that is not a friendly process.  

Sure, audits are "rare," but it is a SEVERE penalty, and your chances of an audit are significantly increased when you itemize, which you will have to do to claim charitable donation exemptions beyond the maximum non-itemized amount.  Which I have forgotten at the moment, but it isn't much.

So, "pay it forward"-away, but maybe just take the tax burden along with it.

[ Parent ]

We're Taxed by Moral Issues (5.00 / 1) (#74)
by Peahippo on Sat Nov 30, 2002 at 09:23:57 PM EST

If you're going to assume the tone of officious threat, I'm going to take the tone of righteous indignation.

I can only expect your kind of advice and tone from one of the enforcers of the regime. I empty my nose in your direction, sirrah. You and your kind don't scare me.

I have seen audits and the negotiation fights that happen thereafter. Why were there fights? Welllll ... axiomatically, if the IRS held supreme power, there would be no negotiation. There would be no fight. Hence, the individual has power even in the breaking of whatever silly letter of law or regulation that you apparently hold so dear.

Accusation of tax fraud may be unfriendly, but it is hardly fatal to one's standing. If we were all supposed to avoid unfriendy situations, nothing would get done. (That reminds me of another of America's sicknesses today: the avoidance of overt conflict that just fosters covert actions of harm.)

So I stand by my reasoning and continue to issue my advice with full confidence: if you donate to lift a friend out of poverty, then you have been charitable, and are thus MORALLY entitled to a tax break as if you threw the money in the United Way's ... er ... way. And you should perform such donations, and just ignore most so-called charitable organizations. Those orgs are generally running themselves just to pay their own payrolls so their yuppies can avoid doing real work for a change. Time for another meeting!

To sum it up a bit with a bit of the anger that motivates me ... if the Tyco corporation can re-incorporate in Bermuda -- the action of setting up a tiny office as a mailing address, I'd imagine -- and thus save $400 million (per the 2001 assessment) in US corporate income taxes, then you can hardly expect the rest of us to view the spirit of tax law as being anything else than "hooray for me and fuck everyone else". Any time spent reading the news for the past year makes it obvious that organised society has long given up on us and we must now fend for ourselves, family and friends. We -- yes, even involving you -- will write a new social contract upon the vast swathes of paper that the prior generations spent so much time inking and then erasing.

[ Parent ]
Tax Deductions (none / 0) (#130)
by Rich0 on Mon Dec 02, 2002 at 04:34:30 PM EST

So I stand by my reasoning and continue to issue my advice with full confidence: if you donate to lift a friend out of poverty, then you have been charitable, and are thus MORALLY entitled to a tax break as if you threw the money in the United Way's ... er ... way.

There are a few reasons for the restrictions on tax-deductability of contributions to non-certified organizations.  Some are politicial, but a big one is the Ultimate Loophole(TM):

  1.  My neighbor and I make about the same income (not unlikely if you bought a house at the same price).
  2.  I give ALL my money to my neighbor every year and deduct it all.
  3.  He does the same for me.
  4.  I pay no taxes, but make a pretty nice income.
I think that if charitable contributions are taxable to the recipient this might be workable, but if they aren't, then this is just an easy way to launder money.

I believe one of the restrictions on US registered charities is that money can't be designated for a particular individual - for the same reason.  I believe that they generally have to show that any money given to individuals is need-based and open to anybody who meets general requirements.  I'm not sure that a church can even force an aid recipient to attend services held by it.  If they can, they still have to make such aid open to anybody who is willing to meet the requirements - they can't prefer folks they already know as being good church attenders.  And while you can designate aid for people with a particular disease, you can't designate it for people with a particular political viewpoint...

The biggest problem with tax laws is that they can be open to abuse.

One solution to this problem that has been suggested is to abolish income taxes and move to a hefty sales tax.  If you spend your money on yourself, you pay taxes.  If you give it away to anyone, you don't.  There are no tax loopholes for the rich or the poor - if you spend money you pay a tax on it.  Plus, nobody has to worry about complying with complicated tax laws, and you could exempt some classes of spending such as groceries or primary residence real-estate.  Anything not spent on goods or services is automatically tax-deductable without having to itemize anything.  You could probably apply for a rebate for business-required purchases.

I'm more than willing to admit that a sales-tax based taxation system may not be the best solution, but it is a way around the charity deduction issues.  

[ Parent ]

This reminds me... (4.00 / 5) (#5)
by DokFenderson on Fri Nov 29, 2002 at 10:18:51 PM EST

This reminds me of a sign on Pearl Street Mall in Boulder, Colorado that lists one of the prosecutable offences as "Aggressive Panhandling". I always wondered if Aggressive Panhandling was another name for Armed Robbery.
Time + Space = Bullshit + Flowers
I've seen that one on Pearl Street (4.00 / 1) (#6)
by grahamsz on Fri Nov 29, 2002 at 10:52:31 PM EST

Although here in scotland i've been told i would burn in hell because i didn't give a homeless person the 20p he asked for.
Sell your digital photos - I've made enough to buy a taco today
[ Parent ]
i would have said something like... (3.00 / 1) (#16)
by tweetsygalore on Sat Nov 30, 2002 at 03:38:10 AM EST

what are you talking about? i run hell and hmmm, you're in the new residents list. yeah, you made it in. something like that. personally, i don't like people who scare and guilt trip you to death. they're usually THE biggest scaredy-cats because they're goddamn Hypocrites from hell, pun intended!
After each perceived security crisis ended, the United States has remorsefully realised that the abrogation of civil liberties was unnecessary. But it has proven unable to prevent itself from repeating the error when the next crisis comes along. --- Justice William Brennan
[ Parent ]
No (3.00 / 6) (#8)
by Psycho Les on Fri Nov 29, 2002 at 11:00:12 PM EST

It's another part of the bourgeois war on the underclass.

[ Parent ]
Your comment... (none / 0) (#126)
by cr8dle2grave on Mon Dec 02, 2002 at 03:29:22 PM EST

...demonstrates that you possess little to no knowledge about The People's Republic of Boulder. To put it bluntly, there is no real underclass in Boulder; a town where poverty is primarily seen as a lifestyle choice and/or a fashion statement. You should also know that most of those individuals "spare-changing" on Pearl street go home each night to the comfort of their parent's multi-million dollars homes smack dab in the middle of one of the most affluent communities in the country.

Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera

[ Parent ]
charity "poaching" (4.16 / 6) (#9)
by danny on Fri Nov 29, 2002 at 11:43:54 PM EST

The other problem with aggressive charity marketing is that some of it just moves donations around - it convinces people to donate to charity X instead of charity Y. So what looks like (say) spending $20 to generate $100 of income might, if considered across the sector, actually be spending $20 for no effect at all.

Frankly I prefer the NPR approach, and think any kind of telemarketing or street solicitation is bad.

[900 book reviews and other stuff]

Sounds plausible (4.33 / 3) (#26)
by Rogerborg on Sat Nov 30, 2002 at 06:53:58 AM EST

Reminds me of the .com business plan, which goes something like: "There's a fixed X amount of money out there available for people like us.  If we spend 50% of X in marketing to dominate the market and secure 90% of X, we win!  Woo hoo!"

Sure, and woo hoo! for all of the other 200 businesses with exactly the same plan.  Uh, no, wait...

Woo hoo for the lawyers, marketeers and accountants, boo sucks for pretty much everybody else, including the donators and recipients.

"Exterminate all rational thought." - W.S. Burroughs
[ Parent ]

I received a solicitation (4.62 / 8) (#10)
by acceleriter on Fri Nov 29, 2002 at 11:59:04 PM EST

from a college suggesting that I double last year's contribution. I found it insensitive in the flat economy and instead multiplied last year's contribution by zero to arrive at this year's.

I never donate to my alma mater. (5.00 / 1) (#66)
by gr3y on Sat Nov 30, 2002 at 07:40:46 PM EST

All those alumni donations did nothing to control the cost of my education, which increased every single year while I was a student, and so I was forced to conclude that the money was being spent elsewhere - perhaps on new leather chairs for the board.

Besides, I already make an annual contribution to Virginia's higher institutions of learning: I pay my taxes.

I am a disruptive technology.
[ Parent ]

College donations (4.50 / 2) (#76)
by pgdn on Sat Nov 30, 2002 at 10:10:19 PM EST

I used to go to the soulless, highly ranked Case Western Reserve University (in Cleveland), and worked for a semester at the "fund drive". While I was there I learned that out of all of Case's departments and graduate schools (they have quite a few), only the law school made money off of the drive. For the rest, expenses (largely management, since of course the students made nothing) were larger than donations. The reason they still ran the drive was to increase their ratings in US News (that's the magazine that does them, right?).

Anyway, it wasn't a surprise, because the university only ever seemed to be concerned with PR anyway (certainly NEVER, except in the case of one or two rare professors, concerned with education). Eventually I got fed up with that and transferred to a more modest Canadian university that was more interested in education and whose tuition (despite the fact that I pay the much higher international rate) is less than 1/3rd of CWRU's.

(And yes, we were very annoying. That's why I didn't last long there).

[ Parent ]
colleges and ask levels (4.50 / 2) (#85)
by elfbabe on Sun Dec 01, 2002 at 12:42:40 AM EST

I beg alumni for money for my university, and we will begin asking at an amount that can occasionally be up to ten times what the person contributed the past year - if someone gives from $0-$99, we'll start asking for $250. (levels above that are proportionally greater) For those who've given really substantial amounts in the past ($250 or above, approximately) we start by asking them to TRIPLE the past year's gift.

Or, that is, we're supposed to. While we certainly don't press anyone about the top amount, and are trained to drop down quite easily if the person's situation requires it, asking someone who's given $25 for the last six years to give $250 is not the best way to get them to give, say, $35. So I ask for reasonable amounts, I ask for things on the level of 1.5 to 2 times the previous years for smaller amounts and drop quickly, and wont' even go that high if people have mentioned financial problems.

This is why I get over 75% of the people I call to pledge, on average, with occasional perfect nights. And also why my bosses keep yelling at me about sticking to my ask levels and asking that guy who's given $1000 since the early 90s and seems to be really annoyed with me for $3000.


[ Parent ]

Re: colleges and ask levels (none / 0) (#132)
by jazman_777 on Mon Dec 02, 2002 at 06:03:58 PM EST

I beg alumni for money for my university, and we will begin asking at an amount that can occasionally be up to ten times what the person contributed the past year - if someone gives from $0-$99, we'll start asking for $250....

As long as my alma maters run monstrous athletic empires, I won't give to them.

[ Parent ]

This is hardly surprising (4.33 / 6) (#11)
by tftp on Sat Nov 30, 2002 at 12:49:52 AM EST

Collection of your donation is the charity's main job. It would be naive to assume that they will stop bugging you only because you asked. In fact, by donating once you proved yourself to be the best possible candidate for the next round of milking. I won't receive $2 envelopes, but you will - because even thinking of $2 waste prompts you to action (such as posting on K5), and you might as well donate some more just to stop the flood of solicitations. As if they will stop.

Charity does not work, and your calculations (as well as already posted comments) only numerically prove it. Charity is a self-sustaining business, but apparently not much is left to donate after all bills are paid. Even worse, if there is something to donate, it is likely to be mismanaged, lost or stolen because it's nobody's money. In my opinion, charities are ineffective in more ways than one, and throwing money (or a box of canned food) at the problem does not solve the problem itself.

look at the problem (5.00 / 1) (#19)
by MrLarch on Sat Nov 30, 2002 at 03:56:34 AM EST

Charity does not work.... Charity is a self-sustaining business, but apparently not much is left to donate after all bills are paid.

But look at what the problem is: their agressive solicitation of donations via means with non-trivial costs. The comparison in the article was with NPR, who releases a document less frequently and with more purposefulness (a newsletter, rather than a "gimme" envelope). However, such mailings aren't a necessary business expense and can be done much more cheaply anyway, so they can't really be said to be part of the "bills" they should budget on paying with their normal operating expenses. Unless of course such "targeted" spam really does work...

[ Parent ]

Targeted solicitations work! (4.50 / 4) (#59)
by tftp on Sat Nov 30, 2002 at 06:10:45 PM EST

Unless of course such "targeted" spam really does work...

Yes, it does work. This is exactly why data mining companies collect personal data on customers. Mailing and calling are expensive, but really they are the only active sales tools available. Therefore, such expensive methods should be focused on a small group of people who are known to donate.

Aggressive solicitation is something that you (as a charity) do when you can't just passively sit at your desk and hope that money will come automagically. To get money - especially today - charities reach out to their donors and demand more money. Maybe they will lose some of those donors forever, but the rest will donate, and that is all that matters.

A charity is not necessarily thinking in ways of an old family business; a hired manager is quite capable to burn through the entire base of donors - carefully cultivated for years by his predecessors - to get what he wants, and then "move on", riding on his "success" and leaving the charity totally wrecked.

[ Parent ]

"Charity does not work" = overstatement (none / 0) (#81)
by texchanchan on Sat Nov 30, 2002 at 10:42:46 PM EST

"Charity does not work"? Tell that to the people who get put up by the Red Cross after their house burns down. You might also want to ask the refugees who got their start here with donated clothing and furniture, and loads of help--rides, etc.--from their sponsors.

I think you have overstated the case and generalized from some kinds of charity that you don't approve of (and which actually may not work) to all kinds of charity.

[ Parent ]

Overstatement or not... (5.00 / 1) (#84)
by tftp on Sun Dec 01, 2002 at 12:31:28 AM EST

People who lose their house to a fire should file an insurance claim. It is a mandatory expense in most places. But of course it would be silly to totally ignore some legitimate cases, as you state.

I do not know what kind of a refugee gets donated furniture. Often the same or better furniture can be found next to a dumpster. It is already too difficult to become a refugee in most countries; donation is one of least important things, while a very real perspective to be shoved onto an airplane back to wherever one came from is a real possibility.

Refugees that I personally knew got social insurance from the government as soon as they arrived (while their case was pending, etc.) - and that was their main income; with less than perfect English they couldn't find a decent job back then. The only form of charity they ever used was food donations, and other posters already commented that this, material, form of donation at least can not be easily abused (generally someone will eat it.)

Refugees who flee something but stay abroad, in tent camps for example, are seldom helped by donations of 100 cans of soup. Even if boxes with food arrive "free", a strongman on the ground usually takes control of the shipment and the stuff gets sold for as much as possible. One can not expect an honest distribution of food in a war zone. Only direct actions of a strong government, locally, can maintain the order; but all too often, refugees ran from that very government.

Again, there definitely are legitimate cases of a reasonable charitable activities. But they are maybe 1%, and the rest is just commercial, well designed propaganda with only one goal - to get your money. Personally, I don't donate money; however my software is GPLed (so I donate my time to everyone who needs the driver, etc.) and my advice about Linux stuff is free.

[ Parent ]

Anonymous donations (5.00 / 3) (#12)
by El Volio on Sat Nov 30, 2002 at 02:18:29 AM EST

Sounds like your donations aren't really anonymous, and that that would help tremendously. I've taken a number of steps to make my donations anonymous; one great way to do so is to donate in cash when I'm donating actual funds. Nontraceable and gets the job done. They don't need my address to ask for more money; if I have more to give, I'll do so of my own accord.

I've also started donating books to my local public library system. It's not much, granted, but I don't feel that they're entirely a charitable organization (in the sense that part of their expenses are covered by my taxes). So we'll occasionally drop off a box of books; some of the books are in excellent condition and can be put to use on the shelves. Some of them aren't in such great condition and are probably sold off in some manner. Fine, the proceeds from that benefit the library as well. But the kicker is that they don't have my name. There's an area where you leave a box of books, and we do that, and that's it. No need for them to solicit anything else. I'm there often enough to pick up the newsletter to know what the issues they're facing are, so they don't need to target me. Joining the Friends of the Library has occurred to me, but I'm not sure if I want to expose myself to all that just yet.

i agree (2.00 / 1) (#14)
by tweetsygalore on Sat Nov 30, 2002 at 03:32:36 AM EST

re making anonymous donations. but that's when i have money to donate. :O best, C
After each perceived security crisis ended, the United States has remorsefully realised that the abrogation of civil liberties was unnecessary. But it has proven unable to prevent itself from repeating the error when the next crisis comes along. --- Justice William Brennan
[ Parent ]
You send cash through the mail? (5.00 / 1) (#65)
by gr3y on Sat Nov 30, 2002 at 07:36:18 PM EST

I've always been hesitant to do that, even though I've no reason to suspect the post office would not deliver it undisturbed, or that the person receiving it for the charity would put the cash in their own pocket.

But perhaps it's time to reconsider sending cash. All other transactions are so easy to track that even the local grocery store does it.

Then again, I'm not sure I want to greatly inconvenience myself. I'm not of the opinion that I should be altering the way I donate to a charity because the charity cannot, or will not, respect my wish to remain anonymous. In my opinion, if I request anonymity they should honor my request, and not make a record of my name or address beyond what the laws of the land require. Of course, if they choose not to honor my request, the only option is to refuse to continue to contribute, and, as another poster has pointed out, they pursue contributors because it is a successful strategy, so this response might not have the desired effect of leading to a more sane policy on solicitation.

A strange thing happened to me the last time I called Land's End to request that my name and address be taken off their mailing list. The woman on the other end of the phone asked me if I would consider another "contact option", meaning that Land's End would retain my name and address, but only send a catalog every three months, every six months, or every year, instead of monthly.

I considered that to be a superior option, but I asked them to remove my name and address from their mailing list nonetheless because I rarely order from catalogs. If I'm interested in buying from Land's End, I'll browse Google. It is good policy, however, to give the consumer a choice and control over how their personal data is used.

Perhaps if MoDF asked for a "contact option" on the original solicitation, and honored it, I would not have requested they delete my name and address entirely, and they would not have spent ~$20.00 soliciting additional contributions, and that money could have been better spent to fund their mission, further reducing their overhead.

I am a disruptive technology.
[ Parent ]

Actually I don't (none / 0) (#95)
by El Volio on Sun Dec 01, 2002 at 08:27:52 AM EST

When I wrote that, I was thinking more of the times that I donate to some cause while I'm there in person, whether it be a fundraiser, church service, what-have-you. While sending cash should be safe, I've never had the guts to do it.

[ Parent ]
-1 Too Cheap (1.00 / 12) (#13)
by TypographicalError on Sat Nov 30, 2002 at 02:32:10 AM EST

If you think that they're using up your money too quickly, why not just donate more? There's no need to be whiny about it.

The world does not revolve around your vagina unless I am allowed to put my tongue in it. - TRASG0

Why not? (4.50 / 2) (#15)
by J'raxis on Sat Nov 30, 2002 at 03:33:27 AM EST

I feel they wasted the donation I made asking for additional donations, and that an additional donation will only serve to reinforce the notion that the overly aggressive marketing of the MoDF "brand" is necessary for the organization to survive, and that is a philosophy I would rather not see non-profits in America embrace.

He seems to have addressed this. Read. The. Article.

I would also like to say that I find the idea that one should go and give more money to an organization after they blew the first round on advertising for more money to be a little perverse.

— The Raxis

[ J’raxis·Com | Liberty in your lifetime ]
[ Parent ]

I believe he was being sarcastic. (none / 0) (#61)
by nstenz on Sat Nov 30, 2002 at 06:30:09 PM EST

I found it mildly amusing.

[ Parent ]
Congratulations (none / 0) (#67)
by TypographicalError on Sat Nov 30, 2002 at 07:44:26 PM EST

We have a winner.

The world does not revolve around your vagina unless I am allowed to put my tongue in it. - TRASG0
[ Parent ]

somebody really should... (4.57 / 7) (#18)
by tweetsygalore on Sat Nov 30, 2002 at 03:51:42 AM EST

come up with a list of the most obnoxious solicitors, whether they're charitable, commercial or political. if there is such a list, please let me know where i can find it. alright, i'm probably going to get a lot of flak from this, but here, from MY personal experience, are the WORST offenders (and i mean, they made my blood BOIL): 1. Smithsonian Museum/Magazine's mailings even if i did enjoy receiving their magazines when i was a member; 2. ACLU's E-mails in an E-mail acct that i HAD to stop using because i got sick of the spam there (and fyi, i HAVE complained TWICE to an ACLU exec about this. one on my behalf and one, on behalf of K5er, in fact). it's one of the reasons why i haven't renewed MY membership; 3. myfamily.com's spams (they used to have an ancestor-something domain name); 4. amazon.com's spams. i swear to God, i had to write to the CEO because i was THAT annoyed. i'll add more later as necessary. best, C
After each perceived security crisis ended, the United States has remorsefully realised that the abrogation of civil liberties was unnecessary. But it has proven unable to prevent itself from repeating the error when the next crisis comes along. --- Justice William Brennan
Commercial (4.00 / 2) (#27)
by I am Jack's username on Sat Nov 30, 2002 at 06:56:18 AM EST

I love National [sic] geographic's [sic] maps and articles, but I cancelled my subscription because of all their Greenwashing ads. After that I received so many glossy beg letters that I emailed them to ask them to remove me from their lists. I still get their junk mail.
Inoshiro for president!
"War does not determine who is right - only who is left." - Bertrand Russell
[ Parent ]
Spam or Snail-Mail Junk? (4.00 / 1) (#29)
by imadork on Sat Nov 30, 2002 at 08:10:22 AM EST

I think you need to distinguish between Junk Mail and Spam. A charity that uses Spam to ask for money probably isn't being that sucessful, but they're not spending all that much money on it anyway. As we all know, the economics of bulk e-mail is that most of the cost is paid by people other than the sender, in bandwidth and hard disk space costs. It's annoying and not very effective, but still different.

What I (and the writer of the article) object to is organizations that, once you donate once, will keep sending you more and more stuff in the regular mail, where most of the cost is paid by the charity.

There's a charity that came to our church and asked for money for "Food For The Poor" in Latin America and the Carribean, and we gave some. Now, we get mail at least once a month, with unsolicited things like christmas cards made from bamboo by "the very people we are being asked to help". Not only do I not believe that, but it actually insults me to think that they can sene me stuff in the mail and then essentially try to guilt me into paying for it. They'll never get another dime of my money.

I think it's perfectly acceptable to look at the overall operation of a charity as a criteria of whether or not to give. Then, the charities that do things the way their donors want will prosper. Heh, it's Market-based Giving! Is that any better?

Approximately 50% of us are below average..
[ Parent ]

to make it more clear (none / 0) (#38)
by tweetsygalore on Sat Nov 30, 2002 at 01:02:05 PM EST

1. smithsonian - junk mail (as in the one that gets delivered by the post office); 2. ACLU - both junk mail and spam, but the spam was really, really annoying. like i said, i just stopped using my old E-mail acct; 3. myfamily.com/ancestors-something - spam; 4. amazon.com - spam. thanks and best, C
After each perceived security crisis ended, the United States has remorsefully realised that the abrogation of civil liberties was unnecessary. But it has proven unable to prevent itself from repeating the error when the next crisis comes along. --- Justice William Brennan
[ Parent ]
Hey cool! (4.25 / 4) (#20)
by godix on Sat Nov 30, 2002 at 04:03:51 AM EST

At least one company I used to work for heavily promoted MOTC. It was almost, but not quite, to the point of 'donate or get written up'. From what I've heard of others that company isn't the only one to carry things so far. Now you've just told me how to get my revenge. I'm going to write them a check for $1. It's unfortunate I live in America or else I could hit them with overseas shipping fees as well....

- An egotist is someone who thinks they're almost as good as I am.
It used to be like that where I work (none / 0) (#30)
by imadork on Sat Nov 30, 2002 at 08:18:51 AM EST

We have an annual pledge drive for charity, where we sign up to have a given dollar amount deducted from our paychecks. We are encouraged to give, and to increase our donation every year.

Years and years ago, from what I hear from the dinosaurs I work with,  you pretty much had to do this to get promoted. You would never get formally "written up", but your contribution level was availble to your supervisor, and he (they were always men back then) could very well decide that you weren't up to the next level of middle management because you weren't charitable enough.

Now, they still encourage us to give, but they make great pains to make it appear that your gift decision is confidential -- you submit it in a sealed envelope, that goes straight to the charity, and no one else in the company supposedly has access to that number.

Approximately 50% of us are below average..
[ Parent ]

Horror Stories (4.64 / 14) (#21)
by omegadan on Sat Nov 30, 2002 at 04:52:05 AM EST

My brothers girlfriend works for this evil mega-corp clothing retailer whose name escapes me now. The name of the charity involved also escapes me, but I assure you this story is quite true (if anyone is really interested I can call him up and ask).

The company would *force* people to go to a "meeting" where this charity gave an emotionally manipulative presentation about all the starving babies in Africa and what not. Then they passed out papers that were agreements to allow the charity to *garnish your wages* weekly as donations. Suggested donations were 10 - 25$ a *week*; and we're talking about people who make minimum wage who don't make enough to be poor let alone be donating this much. They used high-pressure tactics - your manager was going around to see what each person was donating. Long story short, it turns out the managers were *winning prizes* (paid out of the donations) for total donations and donation rate and what not.

My brothers girlfriend, being a smart lady said, "I won't donate weekly but I'll give you a one-time donation." The charity *refused* the donation! Scum of the earth if you ask me.

Religion is a gateway psychosis. - Dave Foley

Yes (5.00 / 4) (#34)
by nevertheless on Sat Nov 30, 2002 at 10:05:04 AM EST

Way back when, when I worked for ITT (when it was a telephone switch manufacturing company, before it became a hotel company, before it was bought by Starwood), they would do the same thing. We were up for government contracts and the management thought it would "look good" if they had a high percentage of employees "voluntarily" donating to United Way and the spared no high-pressure tactics to get your to donate. They even said that you should set up the donations then cancel them later after ITT had applied for the contracts. Such were the ethics of Rand Araskog and company.

This whole "being at work" thing just isn't doing it for me. -- Phil the Canuck

[ Parent ]
please find out the names (5.00 / 1) (#39)
by tweetsygalore on Sat Nov 30, 2002 at 01:10:14 PM EST

i'd be very curious. best, C
After each perceived security crisis ended, the United States has remorsefully realised that the abrogation of civil liberties was unnecessary. But it has proven unable to prevent itself from repeating the error when the next crisis comes along. --- Justice William Brennan
[ Parent ]
Dillards store and United way [nt] (5.00 / 1) (#70)
by omegadan on Sat Nov 30, 2002 at 08:28:50 PM EST

Religion is a gateway psychosis. - Dave Foley
[ Parent ]

thank you (none / 0) (#73)
by tweetsygalore on Sat Nov 30, 2002 at 09:14:09 PM EST

best, C
After each perceived security crisis ended, the United States has remorsefully realised that the abrogation of civil liberties was unnecessary. But it has proven unable to prevent itself from repeating the error when the next crisis comes along. --- Justice William Brennan
[ Parent ]
Target (none / 0) (#46)
by onyxruby on Sat Nov 30, 2002 at 03:30:44 PM EST

When I worked for Target (Store Operations - not retail) they would do this kind of thing. They didn't have anyone walking around to see what you donated, and didn't pay managers bonuses that I know of. Everything else you mention they did. It was very high pressure for the United Way. They also did this kind of thing for Women's Breast Cancer Research. The entire concept that someone might not be able to afford to give to said charities seemed to be beyond them.

The moon is covered with the results of astronomical odds.
[ Parent ]

No matter how bad off you are... (none / 0) (#150)
by vectro on Sat Dec 21, 2002 at 08:44:13 PM EST

... Odds are there is somebody worse off. And given the fact that you're posting to K5, I find it exceedingly unlikely that you can't afford to give to charities.

Now, that you might now want to give to these particular charities, I completely understand. Breast cancer receives research money way out of proportion with its effects, and from what I hear the United Way is less than effective. But that should not stop you from giving something to some charity.

“The problem with that definition is just that it's bullshit.” -- localroger
[ Parent ]

My company did this too.. (4.66 / 3) (#52)
by doormat on Sat Nov 30, 2002 at 04:01:16 PM EST

I was compelled to watch two videos (one from the united way and another one called "water for people"), and they had the "deduct $X from each paycheck duing 2003" on their forms. The two videos took about an hour. The beef I have? I work for a public utitliy. Taxpayers paid for about 1300 employees to watch these two videos, and thus, taxpayers are footing the bill for these two charities.

[ Parent ]
United Way is the worst (none / 0) (#142)
by ethereal on Wed Dec 04, 2002 at 02:15:19 PM EST

I've never understood why I should give it to them so they can give it to other charities. If I cared for those other charities, why wouldn't I save them some money and give it to them directly? The only reason to give to the United Way would be if I thought their choice of charities was more correct than mine - i.e. I wanted to give but was pretty unopinionated. That is not one of my problems :)

Fortunately around here we now have a web site where we can mark off our contribution for the year. Except if your contribution was 0 last year, you can't just click on "continue last year's contribution"; you have to type in 0 again. Contributions are handled as payroll deductions. Hopefully the company itself didn't pay for implementing the machinery for this, but I'm going to guess that they did.


Stand up for your right to not believe: Americans United for Separation of Church and State
[ Parent ]

WBGO (4.33 / 6) (#22)
by evilpenguin on Sat Nov 30, 2002 at 05:55:08 AM EST

I'm a college student, and hence perpetually poor, so I can really only affort to donate to one or two charities (or not-for-profit orginizations) per year. I figured that I would pay for the one that is most valuable to me on a daily basis.

So I donate to WBGO, a public station in Newark, NJ. They truly are the "best jazz station in this country", and completely commercial free (except the few underwriting sponsor bits, which aren't obtrusive because they're read by the show hosts and only take up a minute or two out of the hour). More than half of their operating budget comes from the members, with good reason. I listen to WBGO during my 40 minute daily commute, and without it, the trip would be unbearable. I've discovered so many great artists and seen so many great shows as a result of their recommendations that I'm more than happy to give back.

With regard to mailings, they mail you once a month with the program guide -- that's it. They don't sell your name and address, telephone number or email address. Why not? It's simple really; as I stated, more than 50% of their budget comes from the listeners -- if they started haggling the members, any profits they might gain would be sharply negated by the drop in membership. Orginizations like the March of Dimes probably get the majority of their money from corporate underwriters, and hence they become the first priority. All of those return address labels the article's author is talking about are probably printed by some donating entity for free (as they could use it as a tax write-off), in exchange for the mailing list. See? Everybody wins.

So what was the point of this? Ah yes; if you like good jazz (not that "lite jazz" Kenny G shit) become a member of WBGO (you can listen online if you're not in the NJ/NY area). If not, find some other charity that won't spam you. I hear the EFF is good...
# nohup cat /dev/dsp > /dev/hda & killall -9 getty
KMFA in Austin is pretty good, too... (5.00 / 1) (#62)
by fremen on Sat Nov 30, 2002 at 06:42:09 PM EST

KMFA in Austin is the same way. They're entirely member supported, no commercials except for a few announcer spots, and they haven't sold my name or address to anyone as far as I can tell. Four times a year, I get their magazine (which is actually pretty interesting).

If you're in Austin, and you like classical, KMFA is great.

[ Parent ]

KCSM for San Francisco Bay Area (none / 0) (#141)
by phliar on Tue Dec 03, 2002 at 10:28:48 PM EST

Amen, brother! I came to know of the station's existence from bumper stickers, and started listening, became a member. Never had my name sold by them. (I use a slightly different signup name for each charity.) Same thing with KALW 91.7, the decent San Francisco public radio station (they're much better than that overfatted hog KQED). Both KCSM and KALW average about 70% listener support.

That's "Jazz 91" KCSM 91.1 for real jazz (Clifford Brown Jr. has a show during the day Tues./Thurs. -- listen to the audio stream) and KALW 91.7 "Information Radio" for good public radio.

Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
[ Parent ]

They're all crooked... (3.62 / 8) (#23)
by rtechie on Sat Nov 30, 2002 at 06:17:48 AM EST

I don't give to large charities because I know from personal experience (working for charities, friendly terms with executives at large charities) that they are mostly crooked. Particularly anything having to do with children or religion. Christian Children's Fund is one of the very worst. As is UNICEF.

The "donate your car to charity" charites are also mostly scams. They sell the cars to power companies which destroy them for pollution credits and then pocket the money. So not only are you being ripped off, but you're causing pollution.

My advice? If you donate, try to donate time or goods (toys, canned goods, etc.). Not money. It's a harder to get ripped off. Though a lot of "toy drives", turn around and resell the toys. Goodwill is also a total ripoff (it's essentally run as a for-profit business).

Kidney Cars! (none / 0) (#31)
by imadork on Sat Nov 30, 2002 at 08:23:43 AM EST

The "donate your car to charity" charites are also mostly scams. They sell the cars to power companies which destroy them for pollution credits and then pocket the money. So not only are you being ripped off, but you're causing pollution.

Given the condition of most of the cars I've donated, that's about all they were good for! They probably would have caused more pollution running than the credit was "worth".  After all, If the car was at all usable, I would have traded it in instead of donating it...

Approximately 50% of us are below average..
[ Parent ]

I run my cars into the ground and donate them... (3.50 / 2) (#55)
by Ricdude on Sat Nov 30, 2002 at 04:50:22 PM EST

...to my local SPCA.  A professional car mechanic solicits the parts needed for repairs from local junkyards and auto parts stores.  The businesses that donate the parts get to write them off as a tax deductible charitable contribution.  The mechanic then fixes the car, and puts it up for auction.  Funds raised help pay for the local SPCA shelter.  The guy just likes fixing cars, and puts in a few nights a month (on his own time) doing the actual labor on the vehicles.  I'll be donating my second car to them next week.

I also feel somewhat guilty checking the box for the stuffed animals on the environmental charity I donate to, but I figure they too are donated by the manufacturer as a tax write off, so no harm done.  

Working Assets (http://www.workingassets.com/index.cfm) is a long distance company that donates  a percentage of their operating profits to select charities of your choosing.  You get a form each year, and pick which charities you want your cut to go to.  Also a decent way to get some spare change to charities who could do something useful with it.

I suppose I should do some reasearch into how much efficient my two charities

[ Parent ]

goodwill (4.00 / 2) (#57)
by gnurb on Sat Nov 30, 2002 at 05:15:14 PM EST

Goodwill is also a total ripoff (it's essentally run as a for-profit business). who cares? it gives people with disabilities a chance to work, gives people a place to buy clothes cheaper then usual, and provides a way for people to donate which doesn't cost them any money. I think it's a damn good charity!

[ Parent ]
Goodwill can kiss my left foot (none / 0) (#146)
by Safety Cap on Thu Dec 05, 2002 at 03:20:38 PM EST

A few years ago I had two 8' folding tables that were in good condition that I wanted to donate to "goodwill."

Unfortunately for the poor person who could've used a clean, working table or two, one table had a 6" scratch and the other had a ding on one of the corners. None of the hardware (folding legs) were damaged in any way. "Goodwill" wouldn't take either of them, telling me that they only took completely undamaged items.

Now the tables are taking up space in a landfill (I had to get rid of 'em), and someone is deprived of good table or two that they could've used and been happy with. I will also never, ever give money or goods to "goodwill."

This reminds me of the scam "Toys for Tots" that only accepts brand-new, still in the package toys. Sorry, but my kid would be just as happy with a toy that was clean, albeit slightly used, especially if she had nothing. What is wrong with these people?

[ Parent ]

It's not that bad on your side of the pond. (4.42 / 14) (#24)
by Caton on Sat Nov 30, 2002 at 06:32:52 AM EST

Go through the 2001 financial report of the French Red Cross. This document is a gem in misrepresentation. This is the kind of financial statement Enron accounting tried to duplicate.

It starts by hiding 80% of the costs and revenues in a black box labeled "établissements" --clinics, nurseries, schools, etc.--, as well as 90% of the employees. It then states that the total payroll and administrative costs of the Red Cross are 25.7 million Euros, or 3,7% of their budget. Which means an average cost of 147 Euros per month per employee. Sure. Reality is, that's the payroll and administrative costs for less than 10% of the 14.500 employees--some reports say around 200 employees. Overall, the payroll and administrative cost is a lot more than what is stated in the financial report, of course.

Now let's look at the fund-raising. The fund-raising cost is given at 8,4 million euros, and the total donation are 58,3 millions. Except that, that's 20% of the fund-raising costs, the part that is not paid by the "établissements": when accounting for it, the Red Cross paid 46 millions to raise 58,3 millions. Now let's look at those 58,3 millions: 19,8 millions are public subsidies, 1,6 millions are membership fees, 3,4 millions are sales. In other words, the Red Cross is paying 46 millions Euros to raise 33,5 million Euros.

The US charities are far behind the European ones in the lies department. There's a business opportunity here: teaching European creative accounting and creative reporting techniques to that bunch of bad liars.

As long as there's hope...
46 millions? (2.50 / 2) (#32)
by GaussZ88 on Sat Nov 30, 2002 at 09:05:25 AM EST

Sorry, but I do not understand how you come to the additional 37,9 millions that leads to your 46 million fund-raising costs conclusion. I don't see an item in the "produits des établisements" table that could add to the cost of fund-raisings. Except maybe the "autres" item, but that is only 14,1 millions.

[ Parent ]
Hmm. Right, I didn't explain... (1.00 / 1) (#47)
by Caton on Sat Nov 30, 2002 at 03:36:24 PM EST

In 1996 an audit of the IGAS pointed out that the Red Cross does not report the fund-raising costs of the local sections and subsidiaries but does report the donations. One particularly interesting discovery of that audit was that the Paris section of the Red Cross had accumulated losses of 200 millions...

Now, if 20% of the fund-raising cost is 8,4 millions, then the total cost is 8,4 x 5 = 42.

As long as there's hope...
[ Parent ]
Oh, by the way... (1.00 / 1) (#49)
by Caton on Sat Nov 30, 2002 at 03:40:34 PM EST

The "produits des établissements" (revenues of the subsidiaries) are split by type of subsidiaries, not by type of revenue. So of course you can't find an item "cost of fund-raising": costs are not revenues, and fund-raising is not a type of subsidiary.

As long as there's hope...
[ Parent ]
ARe you implying (none / 0) (#45)
by mindstrm on Sat Nov 30, 2002 at 03:08:22 PM EST

that all of the Red Cross' financial expneses are for fund raising? It sounds like they sipmly don't count running a hospital or clinic or shool as "fund raising".. and rightly so.. that's where the money actually goes.

[ Parent ]
Did you read the financial report? (1.00 / 1) (#48)
by Caton on Sat Nov 30, 2002 at 03:36:55 PM EST

When you do, you'll see that running those clinics etc. costs 565,6 million euros. Those are commercial entities, and their cumulated revenues are 561,3 million euros. Because they are commercial entities, you can't donate to a local Red Cross clinic: you have to donate to the French Red Cross. I don't have to tell you that those entities try to push you to donate, and that this has a cost. This cost never appears in the French Red Cross financial reports.

Short version: I am saying the French Red Cross is lying in their financial reporting. Proof of this can be found in the 1996 IGAS audit of the Red Cross.

As long as there's hope...
[ Parent ]
Analysis of How Charity Money is Spent (5.00 / 13) (#28)
by neophile on Sat Nov 30, 2002 at 07:56:44 AM EST

Charity Watch lists most large charities and rates them by how much money it costs to raise $100, and by comparing overhead costs.

Yes (none / 0) (#64)
by gr3y on Sat Nov 30, 2002 at 06:55:27 PM EST

And I noticed that MoDF was not one of the American Institute of Philanthropy's top-rated charities. At least, I searched in the page using Mozilla's "find text" feature, and wasn't able to find a reference to "march" or "dimes".

Unfortunately, their "Charity Rating Guide" is not available online, and I wasn't able to read what they had to say about MoDF, which would have been interesting since only those charities that spend $25 or less to raise $100 make the list.

The 2001 MoDF Annual Report indicates that they have total overhead costs of slightly more than 25%, a point which another poster here made earlier, but it's only a few tenths of a percent more than 25% (about .3%). Maybe that's what's keeping them off the list.

I am a disruptive technology.
[ Parent ]

Re: Yes (none / 0) (#80)
by neophile on Sat Nov 30, 2002 at 10:36:05 PM EST

MoDF is on the A-Z List, but you pay the $3 for the list. Perhaps they did not make the highest grades in their category, many organizations that are interesting to me did not.

[ Parent ]
More Charity Info Sources (none / 0) (#113)
by SEWilco on Mon Dec 02, 2002 at 09:29:31 AM EST

Some states require charities to file regular reports, and some of these are on line. You might check the official web site of your state.

In looking for a list, I found these links to Government Regulators which deal with charities. That same site has an organization whose purpose is to gather nonprofit statistics, the National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS).

[ Parent ]

The worst part (4.50 / 4) (#37)
by Zara2 on Sat Nov 30, 2002 at 12:53:39 PM EST

I have this same issue. I have a few different local charities that constantly call (harass) me. The worst part is that I did some research and found out that Tax exempt organizations are also exempt from the mail and phone spam laws. For-profit organiztions must have a way for you to be taken off of thier list and are legally required to do so if you ask properly. All tax exempt organizations can simply ignore you and keep calling you back. So your right, there is no recourse to get them to stop bugging you.

Small Values of Revenge (none / 0) (#69)
by jefu on Sat Nov 30, 2002 at 08:28:17 PM EST

When I get calls from telemarketers or charities or the like -- and if I have time -- I do my best to keep them on the line as long as possible. I try to not get cranky, but to keep things humorous and just keep talking. I'll ask as many details as I can and just keep the person talking.

(There are exceptions. Sometimes I can't maintain the right mood. Or some of the telemarketer idiots seem to like hiring people who can't speak english -- my response to them is "Call back when you can speak English coherently and understandably" followed by a quick hangup. )

Eventually I'll agree to take whatever they have or send them money or whatever.

When the forms or bills or whatever arrive, I'll call or return them with a polite "thanks, but I've decided against it."

I do my best to be honest about it all and tell the folks on the other end of the line my strategy. They dont seem to care (with rare exceptions).

[ Parent ]

My method of revenge... (none / 0) (#77)
by gte910h on Sat Nov 30, 2002 at 10:15:42 PM EST

...Get down right spookey! When a telemarketer calls, get downright friendly with them. Find out what their full name is, where the call center is located (Is the weather as nice where you are as it has been here?). Keep talking to them after you get this info. Then go to http://www.anywho.com or any other lookup webpage and look up their home phone number. After you get done with that, ask the person if you mind if you call them back later at their home phone number, which you believe to be so-and-so. About 30% of the time, you hit their number, and about half of those get *really* worried. If they say that's not their number, ask for it then.
Strangely enough, you don't get called back by that company anymore. If you want to get extra tasty spookey, ask them to call back in 20 minutes, then call their home number and ask for them, verify its the correct house talking to whomever is home. When you tell them you talked to their daughter/wife/boyfriend, they get REALLY spooked out.
An eye for an eye is so much god damn fun!

[ Parent ]
works for me (none / 0) (#101)
by DangerJim on Sun Dec 01, 2002 at 01:22:58 PM EST

It's boring, but I've stopped getting calls since I told a series of telemarketers, charities (and long lost relatives), "Sorry, you have the wrong number"

There are no arguments, callbacks or badgering. All of a sudden, they are talking to a real stranger.

Of course, sometimes it is hard to be sure who you are talking to...

[ Parent ]

Charities are corrupt (2.54 / 24) (#40)
by Blarney on Sat Nov 30, 2002 at 01:13:19 PM EST

If it wasn't for the successful Reaganite revolution that is still going on, we wouldn't even be talking about this. This is really a job for the government. The vast majority of US taxes go for weapons, and most of the remainder goes for Social Security and Medicare for old people. Over half of the taxes in my state go to operate prisons which mostly hold druggies and dealers. We'd never even miss the money if they doubled or tripled social services spending.

But no! Reagan good, big government bad! I don't want my taxes being given to lazy people who don't deserve it. We'll give it to those good, upstanding, "Judao-Christian" folk who run charities and decide who needs help. And we must remember that nobody deserves to be taken care of - even a deformed child should be left to starve on a hill like in ancient Athens if nobody can and will take care of it. As St. Paul once said, "He who does not work shall not eat!".

Charities are an anachronism, from the days when the government did not provide social services. But now they just serve to sucker people into giving money which they'll just pay to themselves in salaries. Screw them.

US budget isn't mostly defense (5.00 / 3) (#42)
by koreth on Sat Nov 30, 2002 at 01:58:34 PM EST

The vast majority of US taxes go for weapons, and most of the remainder goes for Social Security and Medicare for old people.

You're not wrong about Social Security and Medicare, but check your numbers on weapons. The Office of Management and Budget's budget page has a complete breakdown of the FY2003 US budget. There's a "citizen's guide" that lays the numbers out in easy-to-read form, or you can dive into the raw figures.

Defense is in fact only 17% of the total. Hardly "the vast majority." In fact, defense spending doesn't even equal Social Security spending (22%), let alone SS plus Medicare (11%) and Medicaid (7%). And it's less than twice the amount we spend on nothing at all, a.k.a. interest on the national debt (9%).

And of course that doesn't even count state taxes, hardly any of which go toward weapons-related expenses (police, etc.)

[ Parent ]

statistics (2.00 / 1) (#58)
by dvchaos on Sat Nov 30, 2002 at 05:26:26 PM EST

can be faked. you can prove anything with statistics. Just because it looks good on the outside dosen't mean it's worth anything on the inside.

RAR.to - anonymous proxy server!
[ Parent ]
Here's some statistics. (none / 0) (#79)
by duffbeer703 on Sat Nov 30, 2002 at 10:18:24 PM EST

50 million americans receive money every month from social security.

That money comes from social security taxes and is disbursed by the government.

Weapons aren't even close to being the majority of federal spending.

[ Parent ]

Good explaination (none / 0) (#93)
by fenix down on Sun Dec 01, 2002 at 05:25:00 AM EST


Yeah, I know it doesn't look like the most impartial source, but it has a pretty good explaination of why nobody can agree on how much money gets spent on what.

[ Parent ]

The "Unified Budget" (5.00 / 1) (#87)
by edhall on Sun Dec 01, 2002 at 02:48:43 AM EST

Until the mid-1960's, Social Security was accounted entirely separate from the rest of the Federal budget. There was a good reason for this: funds collected for Social Security were supposed to be used solely for that purpose and no other. And even though the idea that Social Security is some sort of a retirement savings plan is a myth -- your SS taxes go more toward paying current benefits to others than to some fund that you'll draw on after retirement -- it's not that different than what life insurance companies due with premiums and benfits.

Well, Lyndon Johnson changed how the Federal Budget was accounted. Although a "firewall" supposedly existed to keep SS funds separate, he got a law passed that made SS part of the overall Federal budget -- the Unified Budget Act. This made the billions he was spending on the Vietnam War look a lot less significant. And over time, that "firewall" has broken down, by "borrowing" from the SS fund (and ultimately changing the law so that lost interest needn't be repaid). So what was at first unified only in name has become increasing unified in practice.

Of course, this sells out the original deal that was made with the American people over Social Security, but as the generations slip by the politicos who run the Federal Government figure that no one will notice. Still, many of us prefer that Social Security and Medicare (which was to be a similar deal) be counted separately, since if it weren't for the malfeasance of those in government they actually would be separate funds. Minus those, the Defense budget easily goes to first place, and if you put all the various government subsidies (and I count transportation -- highways being the biggest part of this -- along with agriculture), what most people think of as social programs (i.e. "welfare") come in third.


[ Parent ]
Not gonna work (none / 0) (#98)
by Josh A on Sun Dec 01, 2002 at 10:37:41 AM EST

Still, many of us prefer that Social Security and Medicare (which was to be a similar deal) be counted separately, since if it weren't for the malfeasance of those in government they actually would be separate funds.

Doesn't matter why. The fact is, and you said it yourself, the "firewall" has broken down, our govt. now borrows from SS funds, lost interest doesn't need to be repaid, etc. You cannot count these items separately anymore, even if it would make someone's case look better and someone else's worse.

Thank God for Canada, if only because they annoy the Republicans so much. – Blarney

[ Parent ]
Really? (2.66 / 3) (#43)
by godix on Sat Nov 30, 2002 at 02:01:49 PM EST

"This is really a job for the government."

I gotta agree, we all know the job of taking care of the poor needs the efficiency of DMV, the economic sense of $800 hammers, the stable pricing of the post office, the non-politcial determination to get things done of a Supreme Court nomination, the compassion of an IRS audit, the intelligence of Bush, and the ethics of Clinton. Yes indeed, once we replace all those people who care enough to donate time and money to the poor with politicians only interested elections, money, and positive press things will be so much better.

- An egotist is someone who thinks they're almost as good as I am.
[ Parent ]

Yeah really (5.00 / 5) (#54)
by michaelp on Sat Nov 30, 2002 at 04:23:29 PM EST

The Govt. has the duty to provide for the general welfare.

But note that in the 18th century, welfare meant 'prosperity'. The fact that welfare programs don't lead to prosperity for their charges is as big a failure for the US as if the Canadians had conquered Maine.

Strangely, while one would think thatin the latter case few would be calling to eliminate the Army, in the former case many Americans call for eliminating the Social Programs authorized under the welfare clause.

Be nice if we could all work together to make the social programs to provide for the general welfare as they are supposed to, rather than calling for their elimination while their purpose remains undone.

After all, the New Deal social programs were implemented due to the total failure of private charity to provide prosperity (or even subsistenence) for the poor. There never were 'good old days' when private charity filled the need, there were just 'good old days' when folks thought starvation and poverty were deserved punishments from invisible super beings.

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."

[ Parent ]
Maybe (5.00 / 1) (#86)
by godix on Sun Dec 01, 2002 at 02:25:25 AM EST

"The Govt. has the duty to provide for the general welfare."

General welfare and poverty assistance are two differnet things. Having an army to prevent invasions benifits the entire society, that's general welfare. Giving a poor person some money helps the poor person, that's specific welfare. Social welfare as we know it wasn't the governments job for the first 140 or so years the government existed, there's no real reason it should be the governments job now.

"The fact that welfare programs don't lead to prosperity for their charges is as big a failure for the US"

This much I'll agree with; as I tried to point out the government is one of the least efficient, most costly, and most dehumanizing ways of providing aid. We've done welfare for 40 years now and it hasn't worked yet, how much longer do you want us to continue letting the government screw up before admitting they can't do it?

"Be nice if we could all work together to make the social programs to provide for the general welfare as they are supposed to"

In many cases we all do work together, usually through charity organizations. If you'll recall the original post of this thread, the author was saying that we should NOT all work together and instead let the government do it.

"After all, the New Deal social programs were implemented due to the total failure of private charity to provide prosperity (or even subsistenence) for the poor."

I'm not saying charities did a great job in the past, but then again the government hasn't either. Just for the record, the New Deal was started because the great depression overwhelmed the charities and most of it was supposed to be temperary, FDR never said 'in 2002 the US government will spend 46% (Adobe PDF) of it's budget on social programs.'

- An egotist is someone who thinks they're almost as good as I am.
[ Parent ]

Only if you are going to let them starve (5.00 / 1) (#89)
by michaelp on Sun Dec 01, 2002 at 03:45:01 AM EST

Giving a poor person some money helps the poor person, that's specific welfare.

Only if you are going to let them starve in the street (or wilderness) as the alternative. Otherwise, the general welfare is best served by enabling every member of the society to maximize their potential. Further, as the poor rarely agree to starve peacefully, not helping the poor leads to increased crime, some of which even affects the general population.

Also note that by your logic, national defense only serves the folks who's town is invaded. Who exactly is personally, directed benefitted (using the narrow criteria you are judging the benefits of welfare by), by invading Iraq?

We've done welfare for 40 years now and it hasn't worked yet, how much longer do you want us to continue letting the government screw up before admitting they can't do it?

The alternative had over 2000 years. "Welfare" is working much better than the alternative did even 100 years ago, when the poor routinely starved or died of easily preventable diseases. Not that social programs couldn't do a whole lot better than they are.

FDR never said 'in 2002 the US government will spend 46% (Adobe PDF) of it's budget on social programs.'

I'm sure he never thought we would plan on borrowing ~100 billion to invade Iraq, either. Things change...

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."

[ Parent ]
When did I say let them starve? (none / 0) (#91)
by godix on Sun Dec 01, 2002 at 04:30:59 AM EST

"Only if you are going to let them starve in the street (or wilderness) as the alternative."

Why are the only options avalable government help or starvation? There are other alternatives you know, not every problem is best solved by government. Hell, looking at the government I'd say MOST problems are not best solved by them.

"not helping the poor leads to increased crime"

Statistically speaking most crime is done by upper lower class and lower middle class (except white collar crime which is mostly upper class of course). The belief that starving poor people commit crimes is generally a myth. Usually starving poor people are too busy getting food out of McD's dumpster to deal crack or hold up banks.

"Also note that by your logic, national defense only serves the folks who's town is invaded."

If a country successfully invades an American town odds are pretty good they're going to invade the entire country. If an individual is starving it doesn't mean the rest of the country is going to starve. For that reason national defense serves the general population while welfare serves individuals.

"Who exactly is personally, directed benefitted ... by invading Iraq? "

Iraq is an issue of military offense not national defense. It's also an entirely different debate than social spending so I'm not going to get into it.

"when the poor routinely starved or died of easily preventable diseases."

The US has never had a famine. By definition that means America has never had large segments of its population starving. The great depression came somewhat close, but never got that bad.
100 years ago people were dying of diseases that are easily treated TODAY. Considering that antibiotics and modern medical procedures were pretty much unknown 100 years ago I'd say the problem was a lack of knowledge rather than lack of government welfare.

"I'm sure he never thought we would plan on borrowing ~100 billion to invade Iraq, either."

Considering he was president in WWII I'm quite sure he thought that in 2002 there would be a good chance America would need it's military. Again, I would like to point out that Iraq is a totally differnet debate than social spending.

"Things change..."

The New Deal was designed as short term relief and has turned into a 70 year long (so far) give away program that doesn't do what it's meant to do. The only defense you can present for this is 'things change'? That's the worst defense of a failed system that has cost trillions that I've ever heard.

- An egotist is someone who thinks they're almost as good as I am.
[ Parent ]

Straw man (5.00 / 1) (#94)
by michaelp on Sun Dec 01, 2002 at 06:30:04 AM EST

If a country successfully invades an American town odds are pretty good they're going to invade the entire country.

No, odds aren't pretty good at all, based on history: the last attack only seriously threatened one state, and before that no invader sought to conquer the entire country (maybe you could go back to 1812, but since we started that by trying to take over Canada, I don't think it really works).

In any event, I'm pissed when someone attacks New York, even if it may actually be economically better for San Francisco, because of a 'touchy feely' feeling of patriotism & connection with fellow Americans, not because of enlightened self interest. You are using one set of criteria to define 'general good' when speaking of invasion and another when speaking of welfare. IOW, Bill Gates had access to a good deal of special educational programs when he was young, how many with his potential are managing McDonalds or running drug gangs? Those are the numbers by which the nation suffers when we fail to provide the chance for prosperity for person born or naturalized

The only defense you can present for this is 'things change'?

No, the defense I presented was that the current welfare system does much better than private charity was able to do previously. 'Things change' was simply to point out that folks who say the defense of the states is the most important thing Govt. does have morphed their definition of 'defense' from preventing invasion to something very different in the past hundred years.

The US has never had a famine.

Yet while only a few hundreds actually starved completely to death (on the record, though birth rates were also much lower and many more old folks died of 'natural causes') during the great depression, only quick action by the Govt. prevented much more widespread famine.

The idea of continuing this action is generally based on the idea that we should try and prevent any American from dying earlier than they would if they (or their mother) had access to adequate food, rather than wait for a disaster to happen before calling for Govt. action. Sort of like the idea of having a large peacetime army rather than wait until someone actually attacks before calling up the troops...

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."

[ Parent ]
Not strawman, just noting a difference (none / 0) (#103)
by godix on Sun Dec 01, 2002 at 02:42:09 PM EST

"the last attack only seriously threatened one state"

... because the US has always had national defense of some type. Sounds like further proof of why national defense is a general good, if we didn't have it then the entire nation would have been seriously threatened instead of just one state.

"Bill Gates had access to a good deal of special educational programs when he was young"

He also dropped out of those special education programs. Hardly a rousing defense. Regardless education and welfare are still two seperate things. You keep wanting to bring in other issues, can we stick with just welfare please?

"the defense I presented was that the current welfare system does much better than private charity was able to do previously."

A) There are other reasons for this. Of course people have better health care now, we know a lot more about medical issues than we did 100 years ago.
B) Is welfare really doing a better job? Are people safer living in crime ridden projects that even police fear to enter than they were as hobos 100 years ago? Is gang warfare better than traveling the west like Mice and Men? Does people handing you money and encouraging you to do nothing with your life motivate better than having to work for a living?

"only quick action by the Govt. prevented much more widespread famine."

The great depression started several years before FDR became president and started New Deal programs. If you'll recall history, Coolridge was pres when the depression started and lost the election because he did nothing about it. The government wasn't quick actioning in this case.

"we should try and prevent any American from dying earlier than they would if they (or their mother) had access to adequate food"

How many homeless people have you seen on welfare? Welfare isn't preventing people from starving, those in danger of starbing aren't getting any help from the government.

- An egotist is someone who thinks they're almost as good as I am.
[ Parent ]

I'd say the Govt. is failing it's duty (5.00 / 1) (#53)
by michaelp on Sat Nov 30, 2002 at 04:10:43 PM EST

of securing life and liberty so long as some Americans get worse health care, education, & housing than others.

While the religious right has tried to hijack the "right to life", to me it is pretty clearly violated if a well off American has a better chance of surviving heart attack, cancer, etc., than a poor American.

And the right to liberty is clearly violated when some Americans live in an economic straight jacket & don't have access to the education it takes to succeed for economic reasons.

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."

[ Parent ]
You're right (none / 0) (#143)
by BCoates on Wed Dec 04, 2002 at 02:17:32 PM EST

If we take away expensive, quality health care, and expensive, exclusive education, everyone would be perfectly equal, and the government will finally be a success.

...and other joys of setting policy based on "did you bring enough candy for everyone?"

[ Parent ]

Yeah, right to life. (none / 0) (#147)
by tekue on Fri Dec 06, 2002 at 04:56:31 AM EST

While the religious right has tried to hijack the "right to life", to me it is pretty clearly violated if a well off American has a better chance of surviving heart attack, cancer, etc., than a poor American.
That probably means that you are a communist. Do you think the "right to life" you've mentioned is also violated if the rich American has a better chance of surviving a car crash? Someone driving a new Volvo is by a huge margin safer than someone driving a 15-year-old compact car. It's safer to drink Evian than tap water, should we disallow drinking Evian too? Or should everyone get their rich-sponsored (a.k.a. government-sponsored) cases of Evian?

To draw the concept farther, as I understand it, you either think that a) people should not be allowed to own more resources than the average (so you are a communist), or b) people should not be allowed to use their resources to protect their properity, including their persons.

Well, I think that China is the shining example you are looking for. Don't let the sole fact that communism doesn't and couldn't work stop you.
Humanity has advanced, when it has advanced, not because it has been sober, responsible, and cautious, but because it has been playful, rebellious, and immature. --Tom Robbins
[ Parent ]

Try googling for "federal budget" (2.00 / 1) (#78)
by duffbeer703 on Sat Nov 30, 2002 at 10:16:21 PM EST

About 20% of the Federal budget goes toward military -related activity. This includes salaries, the VA hospital system, weapons procurement and operations.

5-10% goes towards general government operations. (Including the salaries of 500,000 federal employees)

The rest goes towards social programs.

[ Parent ]

Federal Percentages (none / 0) (#88)
by mayor on Sun Dec 01, 2002 at 03:16:38 AM EST

Your figures are probably accurate, but the more important issue is who is doing the counting and how they count. I mean it is possible that the military figures could actually be around 70% (seventy percent), as the wife of Dr. Martin L. King claimed ten years ago, and yet the public is told that is only 20% . It is very possible (more likely than not) that figures are not inherently accurate just because the origin is from the government.

[ Parent ]
If that's true... (none / 0) (#97)
by Josh A on Sun Dec 01, 2002 at 10:26:23 AM EST

...then I certainly don't want such a deceitful and unaccountable organization responsible for, say, my healthcare (and the care of my loved ones), the education of our children, etc,.

Thank God for Canada, if only because they annoy the Republicans so much. – Blarney

[ Parent ]
Break out the tinfoil hats... (5.00 / 1) (#100)
by duffbeer703 on Sun Dec 01, 2002 at 01:01:39 PM EST

The entire budget process is far too exposed to the public for such a deception to take place. There are too many people, from budget watchdogs to right-wing anti-government republicans watching the budget for someone to hide figures of that magnitude.

Mistakes and distortions are found regularly in the federal budget, but never to that extent.

Also keep in mind that in the past, when the lazze-faire federal government offered virtually no benefits of any kind to non-veterans, the military budget never was more than 70% of spending. I find it difficult to fathom that today, (when Uncle Sam is cutting checks to every pensioner and medical practitioner in the United States) that military spending as a percentage has increased.

In short, I suggest discounting the notion of some vast government conspiracy to hide spending.

[ Parent ]

This entire argument is a diversion (none / 0) (#99)
by Josh A on Sun Dec 01, 2002 at 11:35:55 AM EST

On the one hand we have people who'd like to do nothing to help others and feel fine about it, and on the other hand we have people who'd like to do nothing to help others but feel guilty about it now and seek to alleviate their guilt by shrugging the responsibility off onto the legal fiction we call government.

On the gripping hand we have a lot of people suffering, and not many actually doing anything about it. Addicts, as if addiction wasn't bad enough, faced with a society that labels them criminals, a judgmental legal system, and rehab programs that don't work. Prisoners, faced with our prison culture, the possibility (likelihood?) of rape, and very little if anything done to address the problems what got them there in the first place. Children (by this I mean anyone under 40) producing children and expected to be solely responsible for raising them, then criticized by the community when they don't like the way the offspring turn out. You get the idea. You could probably greatly lengthen this list just by observing your community for a day.

The examples I give aren't meant to induce guilt. If you felt guilty reading that, you're still procrastinating. They're meant to show what we currently create, so that you can ask yourself if you want to help continue creating the world we have now.

You almost certainly have skills and knowledge and caring that could help someone. If you don't care about situations such as those in the examples, and don't want to do anything about them... if you're satisfied with what we have... then I certainly don't expect you to do anything differently. But if that's not you, then why not do something about the problems you perceive?

It just seems to me that most of this conversation consists of asserting that someone or something else "should" do it for you, like government or private charities. Then we spend all our time arguing about exactly who (besides you) "should" attend to these tasks, instead of attending to them.

Thank God for Canada, if only because they annoy the Republicans so much. – Blarney

[ Parent ]
Taxes Stopped My Charity Giving (none / 0) (#114)
by SEWilco on Mon Dec 02, 2002 at 09:53:34 AM EST

I used to give a significant percentage of each paycheck to charity. But federal taxes during the Carter administration (while Democrats were also in control of Congress) went up too much for me to afford that.

I now give to charities when I can afford it, and to selected local charities. Usually several thousand dollars a year, and none to those who send the numerous piles of junk to my mailbox (thanks for the address stickers, and thanks for paying my charities for the lists!).

[ Parent ]

Why oh why do they do it? (3.75 / 4) (#41)
by dagg on Sat Nov 30, 2002 at 01:54:37 PM EST

Everyone here is under the impression that the charities will end up losing money by engaging in that practice. So why do they do it? Just for brand identity?

I can see only three reasons to do it:

  1. It is working. They are further in the black than they would be if they didn't do it.
  2. It is not working, but they think it will work in the near future.
  3. They don't care if it works... they just want to keep their organization alive throught brand recognition.
Is it really #3? Please no.
One question to get the most important answer

Find Yer Sex Gateway
Why they do it. (4.66 / 6) (#50)
by pmc on Sat Nov 30, 2002 at 03:43:48 PM EST

Everyone here is under the impression that the charities will end up losing money by engaging in that practice

Well, they won't. The marginal cost of raising a dollar in funds increases as you spend more on fund raising. Eventually when your marginal cost of fund raising equals the funds raised, that maximises the efficiency of raising money. Ideally, you'd stop there.

Unfortunately, people are only going to give so much to charity each, and these mailings are sent out to make sure they give to the right charity. So the mailings are attempting to get a bigger slice of the charity pie.

Obviously, every charity can play this game, and many do. So lots of mailings begging for money because if you don't send out that mailing someone else will get your money.

The net result is that charities spend more to earn the same, and they individually can't stop as then they'd lose. It is grimly amusing to watch the same force - competition for limited resources - that shaped such useless appendages as peacocks' tails and stags' antlers shape the marketing campaigns of so many organizations. So much for the power of intelligence: even when we know what's going on we're still powerless to stop it.

[ Parent ]

Why we do it (none / 0) (#96)
by Josh A on Sun Dec 01, 2002 at 10:22:12 AM EST

So much for the power of intelligence: even when we know what's going on we're still powerless to stop it.

I wouldn't say powerless. I would come to the conclusion that we like it. Well, more precisely, we think we benefit from it somehow.

I've been asking the question, "What's the payoff?" more and more now because my therapist asks it constantly when we're talking about behaviors and feelings I want to change.

He also says Nothing's broken. Everything works perfectly to produce what we currently get. The fact that we keep doing the same things and getting the same undesirable results over and over again doesn't show that we're powerless, it shows that we're stupid.

Ok, so "stupid" was an judgmental word choice. Let's say, "primitive"... we just need to work on clearer perception, greater awareness, on both individual and collective levels.

Thank God for Canada, if only because they annoy the Republicans so much. – Blarney

[ Parent ]
reason number 4 (none / 0) (#60)
by khallow on Sat Nov 30, 2002 at 06:11:57 PM EST

They don't care if it works... they just want to do something good for the world. The money, good food and drink, frequent trips, attractive men/women, and the power are merely incidental benefits. What's your problem? This is for the children!

Stating the obvious since 1969.
[ Parent ]

Actually there is a different reason (4.00 / 1) (#83)
by HidingMyName on Sat Nov 30, 2002 at 11:38:48 PM EST

The problem is that the administrators and bureaucrats have acquired control, so they escalate the amount of admnistrative work to make jobs for their cronies. These mass mailings and other wasteful high overhead bad ideas are often a sign of mismanagement and a need to make it look like the inflated administrative staff is actually doing something useful.

[ Parent ]
United Way (4.16 / 6) (#51)
by ganglian on Sat Nov 30, 2002 at 03:53:28 PM EST

Anyone who has worked in the North East of the US in the Insurance Industry knows all too well what kind of an extortion racket the United Way has there. They have had it for years.
You heard me.
Could you elaborate? (nt) (none / 0) (#56)
by gmol on Sat Nov 30, 2002 at 05:06:22 PM EST

[ Parent ]
Elaboration (5.00 / 1) (#124)
by lorcha on Mon Dec 02, 2002 at 01:26:09 PM EST

It's not just the insurance industry. Pretty much all companies of any size do this. They drag you into a room and make you watch a heart-wrenching movie about this-or-that bad situation in the world, then they ask you to donate to the United Way through a payroll deduction. Your manager is in the room and knows what you donate, and it inevitably comes around performance review time.

If you say you'll think about it, your manager hounds you every day until you donate the "suggested amount" for your position in the firm. It affects your career if you don't donate enough and it affects your manager's if he/she doesn't get 100% participation from his/her subordinates.

The pressure is enormous, and this is why I will never ever donate to the United Way. I tell my manager that I am charitable and explain that I donate to several charaties of my choosing. However, the United Way's pressure tactics are a real turn-off for me and there have been several articles written about how wasteful they are (execs riding around the world in private jets, etc). My firm has been understanding about my views so far, anyhow.

My friend, who went through this after the staff was subjected to 7% paycuts, when pressured, told his boss he would donate $1. But on second thought... maybe you should make that 93 cents. The boss was just trying to get 100% participation, so they both made their points.

צדק--אין ערבים, אין פיגועים
[ Parent ]

DIY United Way (none / 0) (#127)
by bdjohns1 on Mon Dec 02, 2002 at 03:41:33 PM EST

It's not just the insurance industry. Pretty much all companies of any size do this. They drag you into a room and make you watch a heart-wrenching movie about this-or-that bad situation in the world, then they ask you to donate to the United Way through a payroll deduction. Your manager is in the room and knows what you donate, and it inevitably comes around performance review time.

At my employer, there were a lot of people who weren't exactly thrilled with the spending of their United Way donations. So, the Kraft Employee Fund (KEF) got started up. The company picks up the overhead expenses (so 100% of my dollar is given to organization), the directors of the fund are all employees (ranging from folks in their 20s up through middle managers), the fund primarily makes grants to local organizations, and we get additional days off work for donating at least a certain amount (so your boss only knows if you donate a lot). Not a bad deal...I don't mind giving to a set-up like what we've got.

[ Parent ]

Interesting (none / 0) (#92)
by godix on Sun Dec 01, 2002 at 04:42:43 AM EST

My earlier comment was an insurance company in the midwest. Is the company you're refering to headquartered in Bloomington IL?

- An egotist is someone who thinks they're almost as good as I am.
[ Parent ]
Say what you will about their fundraising tactics (none / 0) (#148)
by RebornData on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 11:19:53 AM EST

...but the United Way does a *lot* of very good work. They support a lot of smaller causes that aren't very "sexy" like disease research is and otherwise would have a hard time raising money on their own. There's a lot of overhead in the UW itself, but many of the organizations they support are *very* lean (my wife used to work for one). I'm not sure how else the money would get there... fundraising and providing charitable services are two completely different competancies. It's very unusual to find someone who is both comfortable and motivated to work directly with the homeless, alchoholic and mentally-ill that also can hobnob with the business elite and wealthy to raise funds.

I also believe that the super-aggressive fundraising tactics are driven as much by the companies as the UW itself... what leverage does the UW have over an insurance company? Nothing. It's the company that decided to use the pressure tactics you describe.

[ Parent ]

Charitable Giving (4.75 / 8) (#63)
by jonathanwilson on Sat Nov 30, 2002 at 06:50:55 PM EST

I am a missionary, and live by faith -- which means that our family and mission work are completely supported by donations.

Personally, I would not feel right if the work that I am doing does not measure up to the work of other groups -- i.e. those finding cures for diseases, feeding children, getting people off drugs, etc. Most people out in the trenches of charitable work feel the same. They do the work because of love for people and they do need the money that those who can give do give.

Each person who gives needs to be a good steward, which includes ensuring that you are not being scammed and that the money is used properly. I think the very best way to do that in this modern age is to go visit the work personally, volunteer your time and energy and donate your money directly to those whom you have worked with. It is called "relationship" and it works wonderfully. They are accountable to you, and you get the added benefit of seeing the results and making new friends. It really is great.

Or you could always write a check off to a big charity, feel better about yourself for a few moments and forget about it until next year.

Or you could decide that since all charities are corrupt anyway you can just forget about it and not even send the check.

you oversimplify. (none / 0) (#120)
by ph0rk on Mon Dec 02, 2002 at 12:47:37 PM EST

If I cared anough about the cause, I would probably give more than $20.  

Before the tongue-lashing begins, how the hell can anyone spend the time you suggest working up a 'relationship' with any and every charity they may have a passing interest in?

These organisations are tax sheltered, and as such one should not have to worry a: where their money goes or b: whether or not they will turnaround and peddle your contact information to the first money-grubbing group to happen by.

I give money because my time is worth more to me.  If they try to hassle me out of more aggressively, they only end up wasting that time.

[ f o r k . s c h i z o i d . c o m ]
[ Parent ]

time vs money (none / 0) (#135)
by jonathanwilson on Mon Dec 02, 2002 at 07:56:32 PM EST

You have got a point, and your reasoning seems to lead to a greater government responsibility to regulate charities. There are positives and negatives to this issue. But if you don't mind me saying so, the very fact that you don't want to give based on a personal relationship, is the very reason why the charities don't treat you like a person. I doubt that you can expect much more from them than what you put into it. At this point you are not much more than a name on a mailing list to them. (probably the "A" list because you have given in the past) Jonathan

[ Parent ]
Missionary? (5.00 / 1) (#129)
by Samrobb on Mon Dec 02, 2002 at 04:22:28 PM EST


I have to admit, I'm a bit suprised to find a missionary here on k5 :-/ If you don't mind me asking, where are you located? My wife & I have recently made the decision to surrender ourselves to become missionaries... I'm interested in talking to someone who's been there, done that.

"Great men are not always wise: neither do the aged understand judgment." Job 32:9
[ Parent ]
Missionary on k5 (5.00 / 1) (#134)
by jonathanwilson on Mon Dec 02, 2002 at 07:45:10 PM EST

I was a bit hesitant to post at first because the anti-Christian bias is pretty prevalent here. But then I thought, well if I can't take the heat then I better stay out of the kitchen. I have been a nondenominational Christian missionary in Japan for the last 14 years. (so working in adverse conditions is pretty normal for me.) Our website is http://gracejapan.com Feel free to contact me and I will help in any way I can. Jonathan

[ Parent ]
march of beers (3.71 / 7) (#71)
by anonymous cowerd on Sat Nov 30, 2002 at 08:40:39 PM EST

I do my charitable giving on the sidewalk. If Jesus could turn water into wine, the least I can do is buy some broke guy a nice cold beer.

Yours WD "beer" K - WKiernan@concentric.net

A drowning man asks for pears from the willow tree.

A $2 mailout? (4.50 / 2) (#75)
by Sporko on Sat Nov 30, 2002 at 09:47:11 PM EST

The numbers quoted in this article are grossly inflated.

The reply envelopes are purchased in bulk for pennies each (and there is no postal charge unless they are mailed). Next, the printing, folding, stuffing, and sealing can be done by a professional shop very cheaply. Finally they are going to be sent as third class bulk mail.

If this costs more than 50 cents per letter I'd be shocked.

Still... (none / 0) (#90)
by JanneM on Sun Dec 01, 2002 at 04:09:08 AM EST

50 cents per letter and one letter a month means an outlay of $6 for every donator. If you gave less than $6 (I'd guess an even $5 would be common), they're going for a net loss on that donation - and a donator that rightly is pissed his money were never used for its intended purpose.
Trust the Computer. The Computer is your friend.
[ Parent ]
Costs.. $0.50? (none / 0) (#115)
by SEWilco on Mon Dec 02, 2002 at 10:14:12 AM EST

I thought that mass mailing should be cheaper than the original article, particularly as ink is much cheaper than the "toner" which was mentioned, as few mailings are made with expensive copy machines.

But from this fundraising article with a sample cost of $0.50, maybe it's not much cheaper. Some of that cost is postage (discounted for non-profit and bulk mail), but each piece is indeed rather expensive.

[ Parent ]

The Toronto Star's take (5.00 / 4) (#82)
by HoserHead on Sat Nov 30, 2002 at 11:26:59 PM EST

The Toronto Star recently had an exposé on Canadian charities. Indeed - many of them waste huge amounts of money.

I remember talking to a friend of mine in highschool, whose summer job was campaigning and collecting for "Aladdin Children's Charities" - a well-paying job. I thought then that it was a scam, and as it turns out, it pretty much was. More than 70% of all donations were used up in administration and other overhead.

As it turns out, much of the time professional donation takers - such as my highschool friend - take a huge cut of every donation. While much of the time the founders of charities have the best of intentions, when they outsource to these firms, they lose much of the money they might have taken in - and so can't spend it on charitable works.

I highly recommend reading through the articles linked on the page I linked to above. It's very eye-opening.

A general rule of thumb I think I'll use in the future is: if highschool kids are campaigning, and/or people are knocking on your door, it's not a good idea to give. Give to the big charities - the Heart and Stroke foundation (who I seem to remember, though the charts that were in the paper version of the Star aren't online and so I can't verify, has overhead of less than 5%), the Canadian Cancer Society, etc. Ask people who DO knock on your door if they're being paid - real charities don't pay people to collect for them in my experience. Be skeptical - if in doubt, don't donate. There's always the "I gave at the office" excuse, after all.

Even better (5.00 / 1) (#131)
by hatshepsut on Mon Dec 02, 2002 at 05:39:45 PM EST

The Star linked to the Canadian Gov't webpage that indicates where disbursements for each charity are going. Here is the Canada Customs and Revenue page. Search for the charity name, and look at the T3010 page. Section D, Disbursements, is the area to look at. If line 128 (total disbursements) is greater than the sum of lines 120 and 121 (disbursements to programs and donees) you are spending your money on advertising, not research or assistance.

Based on the Star's articles, and the gov't page, I will no longer be giving to several charities that used to be at the top of my list. Any charity who calls/mails me will be checked out prior to me giving them a dime. Why? If you ask me for money for medical research (for example), I would like to think that at least 60% of the money I give you is actually paying for research. Hell, I would prefer more than that, but some fundraising does cost money and I try to be realistic.

My other personal guideline: I give to each charity once a year. If they bug me more than that, I tell them I already gave that year and not to call again until next year. If they call again, I tell them they won't be getting any more money EVER, and why.

[ Parent ]

Outsourced? (4.00 / 1) (#102)
by Tatarigami on Sun Dec 01, 2002 at 02:25:33 PM EST

I used to work for a professional fund-raising company that hosted charity children's shows and run telemarketing campaigns to sell them to people at home (yes we were evil, but that's another story).

For each campaign that was run, the charity in question was guaranteed a set dollar amount from the effort, plus a percentage of whatever came in once expenses were taken care of. Staff were never told what that percentage was, but I'm convinced it was fairly low.

Looking at it this way, I was always a little bit surprised that those organisations would let us use their names like that, when they had very little input into what we were doing and the return was never very impressive. It was only later I realised that to them it was like an advertising campaign that ran itself, at zero cost -- after a campaign, their name was on everyone's mind for months and it wasn't unusual for the cagey ones who didn't want to make a donation over the phone to post in a donation or drop a few coins in a box next time they saw one.

However, having met a few of the people in charity administration, I can't honestly say they impressed me much. Working in that environment for 18 months helped me to develop my current policy of not donating anything that can be spent. (Unless I get one of those Cancer Society daffodil pinwheels out of it. I love those things.)

Abuse (none / 0) (#108)
by Repton on Sun Dec 01, 2002 at 11:24:13 PM EST

Slightly OT --- This reminded me of a Consumer magazine article.

Basically, a couple of people set up an organisation called <u>Children At Risk Education</u> (which, in acronym form, becomes "CARE" --- "coincidentally" the same as a certain high-profile international charity organisation). It then employed a telemarketting firm called CSG to request money on behalf of local schools (who often knew nothing about it). The problem is, the telemarketing firm got at least 70% of the money --- and who owned CSG? The same people behind CARE...

Quote: Despite several intensive telemarketing campaigns, presumably raising thousands of dollars from the Wellington region, Wellington primary schools have received nothing but unasked-for plastic flags.

(part of the problem is that there is little regulation of charities in NZ)

They say that only an experienced wizard can do the tengu shuffle..
[ Parent ]

No argument (none / 0) (#128)
by Tatarigami on Mon Dec 02, 2002 at 03:49:14 PM EST

The owners at our company knew of a few outfits like that, and were always critical of them. I'm sure they liked to think they were the ones who set the standard for other organisations to aspire to, but the truth was they were just honest enough to make the business model viable over the long term... and had an impressive array of justifications that made them feel like saints.

[ Parent ]
Hard sell turns me against charities (4.66 / 3) (#104)
by Grundie on Sun Dec 01, 2002 at 04:51:14 PM EST

I have noticed over the past year that many major UK charities have started to solicit bank details on the street. The aim of which is to get you to give them something like £5.00 per month and as it is coming directly from your bank account, hopefully you won't notice it too much.

As much as I support the aims of many of these charities I am very, very opposed to this form of fund raising. They seem to be out in big numbers, at least 10 or more from what I see, always in close groups across a street. It is very difficult to walk past them and avoid them and they always try to stop you. I find the these tactics very aggressive and now I always refuse to speak to them.

The whole setup is very, very clever. They wear jackets or bibs witht the charity colours emblasoned that makes it impossible to just ignore them or claim you didn't know who they were. If you do stop for them, they never ever start by asking if you would like to make a donation to that charity, they always give a short talk accompanied by appropriate pictures to pull the heart strings first. Then they won't ask for a donation, oh no! They want your bank account or credit card details and permission to take a few pounds out of your account every month for forever. Plus they insist that credit card debits are processed as continuing authoity type payments. This means you cannot cancel them, only the charity can do that. So if you phone up and ask them to cancel they will try the hard sell again to stop you from ordering them to cancel the  payments.

It is obviously a professional fund raising company organising this, the same people appear month after month but with representing different charities. They are surprisingly aggressive in their actions. I have seen people telling them to f' off yet they will still try and stop that person. I was once stopped and when I made it clear I wasn't giving my bank details to someone stopping me on the street, she relented. I managed to get her to admit she was trained to spot people with good jobs based on their clothing (I was wearing a Gore-Tex jacket at the time).

I find this whole concept wrong and I feel it could lead to misuse by criminals. After all all you need is the correct looking clothing and a clipboard and people will be more than happy to give you their credit card numbers and bank details, which I'm sure many criminals would love to get hold of.

I decide myself which charities I give money to, I am unlikely to be swayed by agressive tactics or emotional blackmail, unfortunatley many people are not like that and the fund raisers know that. The biggest pity of all this hard sell by the big charities is that the smaller, maybe more deserving charities who cannot afford to hire professional fund raisers will stand to lose out.

I take a dislike to charities who use tactics like this. IMO it changes the charity from being an organisation which encourages us to donate, in to a company which tries to force us to donate. Many of these charities are very worthy, but if they carry on like I have described above, then I will direct my donations elsewhere.

Robert in Derry

In London ... (none / 0) (#117)
by vrai on Mon Dec 02, 2002 at 10:38:51 AM EST

... you can't move for these guys. All earnest late-teens / early-twenties types who like, really, really believe in what the charity is doing.

However I now just blank them, either keep looking straight ahead or just look through them if they get in the way. If they try and interrupt a conversation with a chum we just pretend they're not there. Eventually they wander off to find easier prey. I use the same tactics for beggars and those people trying to conduct surveys.

Some people can't do it and have to stop whenever a complete stranger approaches them, but it does make it much faster to get about on foot.

[ Parent ]

Charity muggers... (none / 0) (#121)
by mr nutter on Mon Dec 02, 2002 at 01:11:28 PM EST

Yes, they're a pain. I find that denying you have a bank account that supports Direct Debit (I have no idea if such beasts exist but it seems to work) or credit card is quite effective in getting rid of them.

[ Parent ]
Obvious solution? (4.66 / 3) (#105)
by chickenhead on Sun Dec 01, 2002 at 05:23:52 PM EST

I'm a little surprised that I haven't seen the obvious solution posted here. Simply find a small charity, maybe close to home, whose work you know and whose staff you trust. Then donate to that charity exclusively, as much as you feel you can spare.

I can't contribute very much, but I happen to know of a place--maybe two hundred yards from here--that provides free food, job training, English language classes, and other kinds of help for poor people who live within about a two-mile radius of my home. I know the director, used to live practically next door to her, and have a fairly good idea of how well the place is funded and how much the staff is paid. Oh yeah, my kids play with the kids of another staff member.

When I give twenty bucks to "Janet" I know that about $19.00 of it is going to buy bread, milk, and breakfast cereal for (let's say) a single mom with three kids who is trying to get it together and has the support to get out of whatever crisis she's in. And I get the tax deduction too.

I think that's a perfect solution to the problems that gr3y is talking about. It seems to me it should be accessible to most.

Read (none / 0) (#106)
by Cant Say on Sun Dec 01, 2002 at 06:10:01 PM EST

It is pretty obvious, which is why this issue is already mentioned here

[ Parent ]
We want your blood... (3.50 / 2) (#107)
by skyknight on Sun Dec 01, 2002 at 07:53:19 PM EST

The Red Cross is really quite persistent if you leave a telephone number with them, to the point of obnoxiousness. I donated with a local facility last year and received a telephone call every few weeks asking me if I wouldn't terribly mind setting up an appointment to come in and bleed. One time I asked whether there was a shortage of my blood type, to which they responded "no." Thankfully with a new phone number I now know peace.

Obtaining charitable donations does take persistence, but if you manage to piss off the people making the donations, you're not doing yourself a favor.

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
The key is repulsion (5.00 / 1) (#112)
by krek on Mon Dec 02, 2002 at 09:26:32 AM EST

It is especially easy with donating blood but will work with almost any solicitation for money, time or answers.

Take blood donation, pick up the phone, listen long enough to identify the solicitation for a blood donation then tell them that you are a hard-core heroin addict and that it will take a couple days to get sober enough to make it to their clinic. Quickly enough they will be the ones blowing you off.

I was once called to see if I wanted to subscribe to a newspaper (this occured at least twice a month); I told them that I was illiterate; they asked if there was not someone in the house that could read; I told them no there was not, that we were all illiterate; he told me that the Montreal Gazette was an excellent way to learn how to read; I started crying and told him that he was very insensitive; he quickly made his appologies and got the hell off the phone. I have not heard from the Gazette in almost three years.

You can often get rid of a particular solicitor forever this way, and it is way more entertaining than telling them to please go away. Have fun with it, and make sure that you convince them that the very last thing in the world that they want to do is talk to you.

[ Parent ]
Heh-heh... (none / 0) (#116)
by skyknight on Mon Dec 02, 2002 at 10:22:34 AM EST

I think you're on to something...

"Well, sir, I would love to donate my AB+ blood, but... It turns out that I'm gay, I have multiple sex partners and never use protection, I use dirty needles for my IV drugs because I can't afford clean ones, and I've been abroad for the last three years, contracted malaria in a South American jungle (which thankfully does not bother me much as I am homozygous for the sickle cell gene), and was in Great Britain for the mad cow disease scare, during which time I consumed a diet exclusively of raw hamburger."

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
I keep them on the phone... (none / 0) (#140)
by BuddasEvilTwin on Tue Dec 03, 2002 at 09:54:04 AM EST

I can identify with your attempts at using illiteracy. I had one woman use the "Our paper is a great way to learn how to read". After pulling out about 15 rediculous, yet seemingly bullet-proof excuses, she finally gave up after 15 nimble counter-reasons. Most telemarkers seem to be hip to pranks and gags. Now I usually stumble trying to understand what thier offering, put them on hold, talk about Judge Mathis, repeat questions, and give them the feeling they almost have me... If more people wasted thier time, telemarketing wouldn't be profitable...

[ Parent ]
My giving policy (FWIW) (4.00 / 1) (#111)
by the original jht on Mon Dec 02, 2002 at 09:16:27 AM EST

I actively donate money to a couple of local causes (Children's Hospital in Boston and the Jimmy Fund).  I also give money (unsolicited) occasionally to a local "no-kill" animal shelter where we've adopted pets in the past.  And I usually stuff some money in the Salvation Army kettles every holiday season.  I've also joined both the EFF and (recently) the ACLU, as well.

Other than that, though, I prefer to donate "in-kind" gifts - I drop off food and clothing occasionally at the local homeless shelter and I bring newspaper and supplies to the animal shelter.

I do have two hard-and-fast rules, though.  I will _never_ give money to anyone who solicits me for money on the phone.  Ever.  And any mailed solicitations from organizations I haven't specifically (and previously) chosen to support go straight into the shredder.  Finally, the more they mail me, the less likely I am to respond.  I generally give to my causes once or twice a year.  I won't give more than that, regardless of how often they ask - I haven't had a problem with these organizations thus far.

Of course, my policy for unsolicited mail in general is to shred it and send it back to the sender in their own post-paid envelope.  So by just trashing junk mail from charities, I'm actually giving them a break...

- -Josh Turiel
"Someday we'll all look back at this and laugh..."

i definitely HAVE done that a few times (none / 0) (#138)
by tweetsygalore on Mon Dec 02, 2002 at 11:26:51 PM EST

ask to be removed from their mailing list by using THEIR prepaid envelopes...the charity world definitely needs a steve kirsch to shake them up from their spam: http://www.govtech.net/news/news.phtml?docid=2002.08.23-3030000000019790 . interestingly, mr kirsch himself IS a philanthropist. best, C
After each perceived security crisis ended, the United States has remorsefully realised that the abrogation of civil liberties was unnecessary. But it has proven unable to prevent itself from repeating the error when the next crisis comes along. --- Justice William Brennan
[ Parent ]
Donate to us! We won't bug you! (4.00 / 1) (#119)
by unDees on Mon Dec 02, 2002 at 11:33:00 AM EST

The same thing happens to me with the mailers. There are certain charities I give to out of habit or on behalf of family members at Christmas time. And I can definitely tell the ones with taste from the ones with no brains at all. A couple of the organizations do nothing more than send me a newsletter once or twice a year, with actual content and (by the way) a modest request for money. Out of the (let's say) $20 I gave, at worst they may have spent $3 on publishing and sending me the inexpensively printed newsletter. Not bad.

Then there are other charities that have prompted me to follow the same line of reasoning you did: they must have spent waaaay more on bimonthly glossy begging than I ever gave them. Not to mention the other foolish charities who bought my name from them and sent me completely unsolicited mailers, which is a sure way to end up in my trash can for good (and not just the one on the old PowerMac!).

My wife has heard horror stories from other charities about how much money these direct mail campaigns lose. We don't do 'em. Tell you what. Give to the nonprofit where I volunteer instead. It could really use the money (and almost all of it will go toward vaccines and veterinary bills--it's a pretty low-overhead operation). We won't share your name with anyone. We won't bombard you with crap. If you want, we'll never send you anything again, save a single hard-copy receipt you can give to the IRS. So if you're not all burned out by the giving thing, let me know here and I'll take out a k5 ad for our org and give you a link to the ad. Hey, I'll even pay for the ad out of my own pocket, and the nonprofit won't be out a dime.

Your account balance is $0.02; to continue receiving our quality opinions, please remit payment as soon as possible.

My Ex-GF started my flood of junk (3.00 / 1) (#123)
by The Turd Report on Mon Dec 02, 2002 at 01:20:35 PM EST

She got a membership with the ACLU. Now, there are no less than 5 mailings a week from various orgs looking to hit her up for more money.

I donated to MoDF... (4.00 / 1) (#139)
by skintigh on Tue Dec 03, 2002 at 01:46:14 AM EST

Last year, I was just thinking of buying some return address labels to put on my millions of bills when the MoDF sent me some free ones. I thought it was so nice I donated $20. A few months later, as I was moving out, I gathered up all the pads of return labels the MoDF had sent me insubsequent solicitations and all the pads I got from the foundations they sold my personal info to. I had a stack a foot tall. Several pounds of labels. It was unreal. I guess I reverse-donated about $50 collectivly to all those charities, never mind the true cost of disposing of al that.

charities marketing (4.00 / 1) (#144)
by blisspix on Thu Dec 05, 2002 at 01:52:57 AM EST

a couple of years ago I did some work with a student group that was doing a project on charity marketing. They did a report for one of the major children's charities in Australia, and the wastage is phenomenal.

When charities aren't wasting money by throwing mammoth celebrity charity balls, they are wasting it on administration, and advertising, and who knows what else.

In Australia, charities can spend up to 40% of donations on administration costs. And yep, many of the big ones do. What a waste of donations.

I do not support charities like World Vision because of this, I think it is a slap in the face to ask for money and then spend it on TV commercials.

I don't support a charity because they have a good glossy campaign. I support charities that I think have a good cause, and most other people I think feel the same way. So why do they keep wasting money on flyers and direct mail and CDs?

WNRN/WNRS (4.00 / 1) (#145)
by sparkchaser on Thu Dec 05, 2002 at 02:07:58 AM EST

WNRN (91.9 FM) out of Charlottesville, VA is a community radio station that focuses on 'Modern Rock'. I give to them freely twice a year because the whole commercial free radio experience is so damn wonderful. Plus the programming is so much better. They have never bothered me for $$$.

GIVE LOCALLY! (none / 0) (#149)
by RebornData on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 11:33:35 AM EST

Geez. Let's think about this for a second. You're complaining about aggressive marketing tactics from name-brand world-wide charities. Brands don't get established on their own -- chances are, if you've heard of the charity, it's because of some marketing or PR activity. Charities thare are aggressive about marketing are the ones that have visibility to people who put no effort into finding out about charities. But these folks are the literal tip of the iceberg.

Put the smallest bit of effort into looking locally- you'll find numerous charitable causes that will have a direct impact in your community and will likely not spend most of your money sending you marketing materials. You probably won't have heard of them before you look. Don't know where to start? Look for volunteer opportunities at www.pointsoflight.org and spend some time helping a group to determine whether they are worth your dollars. Not only are volunteer hours 100% efficient (unless you're helping with overhead activities) but you get to meet the people you'll support.

Really, it's not hard. If you care how your money is used, put a little effort into finding out. If you don't, you get what you deserve.

The unfortunate consequence of the "hard sell" of the modern charity | 149 comments (148 topical, 1 editorial, 0 hidden)
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