The Season of Giving

The Season of Giving

As the holidays near, you probably find that you’re being approached for donations by many organizations .

And I encourage charity donations. But have you ever gotten that call where “just $10 or $20” will be used to support one of these important causes? Money will go to support victims of natural disasters, children with cancer or other serious diseases, veterans, and first responders (police and firefighters), and mistreated animals, to name a few. The caller describes situations that tug at your heart. And they want the donation right then – no time to research. You can ask questions, of course, but can you trust the answers?

I recently heard a report on American Public Radio’s Marketplace show (available as a podcast) about phone solicitations and was reminded of a call from a friendly, deep-voiced gentleman who wanted money for a police charity (I don’t remember the name of the charity). During the call, I asked questions about where the money went and how it was used. I really wanted to help, but something told me to be skeptical. I asked him to send me written information so I could make a decision. I never received the information in the mail that he’d promised.

Turns out, many of these calls are from telemarketers who are working on behalf of the charities. By the time the telemarketer takes their cut, and the charity pays administrative and management costs, there’s little left for the actual cause. The state of Iowa has been investigating charities that use phone solicitation, and have found that they call donors on behalf of multiple charities. Reporting from the Tampa Bay Times noted that some donors are contacted multiple times in a year for the same charity, and sometimes more than once a day for multiple charities. The Iowa Attorney General recorded some of the calls, which you can hear on their You-Tube video here:

And so, again, the perennial warning about making sure that you know the charity you’re supporting, and most especially, that you know that your money is mostly going to beneficiaries of the charity, as opposed to marketing and administrative costs. And if you frequently are solicited for phone donations, I’d add a suggestion that you be prepared to simply hang up the phone if a charity solicitation caller persists.

Here are some responses you can give, with a friendly but firm voice, and not get pulled into a high money/low effectiveness charity donation:

“I’ve already reached my donation target for the year.”

“I haven’t heard of that organization, and I only donate to charities I know.”

“I’ve decided that from now on I’d like to give to a different charity.”

And then, even though you have been taught that it’s bad manners to hang up while someone is talking, you just need to hang up. Let the telemarketer move on to the next call.

Finally, take the opportunity to remind yourself that you’re in charge of (and responsible for) your money. If you feel bad after you hang up because you can afford the $10 they were asking for, immediately go to your favorite (legitimate) charity and make a donation. And if you need the $10, write yourself the check by transferring $10 to your saving account or making a $10 payment towards your credit card balance.

Have a happy holiday season, and share wisely.

See the entire Marketplace article here:

See more information about America’s Worst Charities and get a list of the 50 worst charities in the US: