Punished by charity, because no good deed


It was about fifteen years ago. Friends were getting married, and they had everything they wanted. They sent out invitations with a request that anyone considering a gift please think about one of their favorite charities.

So, we did.

Charity itself is fine. Actually, itís one doing wonderful things. Iím not going to name them for two reasons: (1) Itís not one that Terry and I personally have strong desires to support. (2) What happened after that wedding gift.

Ever since we made that donation, we have received numerous requests for the next donation. E-mails a minimum of two or three times a year. Roughly the same pace for traditional postal contact. And all of the requests note that as one of their previous contributors they would like us to know how important our continued support is.

Iíve come to hate them.

Ok, thatís not accurate. Or fair. I donít hate them. As I said a few moments ago, they are doing wonderful things. But I admit, the sight of their logo or return address does cause my eyes to roll and triggers a deep breath of frustration.

I donated to them because a friend asked me to make the contribution rather than purchasing them a wedding gift. Thatís it. If I had been looking to support any charity of my selecting there are several others that are delivering services that are very important to me on an extremely personal level.

And yet, the mail keeps arriving. The e-mails keep arriving.

In a strange way, it almost feels like a targeted guilt trip. Like Iím being punished for caring about the wishes of my friends. There are also times when it almost feels like a line has been crossed.

Of course, this particular organization is also not the only one reaching out for dollars. We get contacted by quite a few.

(Ok, disclaimer time.)

I donít really blame any of these groups. One of the best places to look for new donations can be in the direction where donations arrived previously. We are also, in days gone by and days right now and likely days in the future, living in a world where fantastic organizations doing incredible work need as much support from us as possible. And yes, of course, emotions are an incredible hot button to push.

Someone I know once told me that these reasons and a few others were why she tried to make her donations anonymously.

Another person explained that he and his wife selected the charities that meant the most to them. Those are the ones they faithfully support. When request after request from others finally pushed them over an edge, they drafted a letter which briefly explained that while they are not deeply familiar with the organizationís work, they have other groups that resonate with them for specific reasons. That letter quickly covers ground that says they will not be sending this group any donations now or in the future and closes by wishing them well. Whenever they get a request with a posted paid envelope, that letter goes out. According to his claims, they feel as if the requests have lightened since its introduction, as if they are being removed from mailing lists.

I have no clue if either of these approaches help. But, in both situations, it provides a look at an interesting approach. In a way, both are proactive attempts to still provide specific support while allowing for ways to improve other situations. And I can appreciate that.

When I do make attempts at assisting with fundraising by mentioning a group to others, I usually try to pass along an additional thought. Might be the best idea to close with.

For those of us that can, supporting worthwhile efforts is an amazingly important and kind thing to be doing. I would absolutely love it, and be grateful for it, should you decide to make a contribution in a direction where I have shined a spotlight. This group, however, is not alone. The past few years have been difficult on so many, and tremendous organizations can use our assistance. So, please, if you can make a donation to the group I am supporting, thatís wonderful. But even more importantly, Iíd appreciate it if you paused for a moment to think about causes that mean a great deal to you. And, if you can offer them some assistance, that would be wonderful as well.

Those words are being shared somewhat generically. The sentiment still applies. Iím never looking to be critical of, or to hamper the thoroughly wonderful activities of amazing groups. And Iím not looking for applause and recognition for my support. I just believe it doesnít have to be a bad thing when I donít.


If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at Bob@inmybackpack.com