Doctor Eclectic

Doctor Eclectic
Doctor Eclectic

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Giving Tuesday

Looking at the contents of my mailbox last month I was struck with the idea that perhaps I had missed one or more memos.  For example, I didn’t remember seeing that 2014 marked the third year of #Giving Tuesday, which follows Black Friday and Cyber Monday: celebrating, if that is the correct word, the occasion of prioritizing charities to donate on the last few days you would be able to claim the donation as a deduction on your taxes.

Don’t mistake my rhetoric for a negative position towards charity donations.  Last I looked, my donations on my tax form exceeded the Obama’s, partially due to Mary and me attending at least five private universities supporting at least two Publically-supported media, a dozen or more on-going religious charities, and half a dozen charities where donations were made “in lieu of flowers”.

What I noticed this year was a full-court press beyond my past experiences.  I had more solicitations than catalogs or Christmas Cards.  It triggers some of my pet peeves.

1.       Solicitations from charities where I have an annual membership:  Not only is this confusing, it makes me wonder why I belong to this group.  Biggest offenders are the state and national parks.  Caught in the process are organizations like the Audubon Society, whose membership renewals look like solicitations.

2.      Solicitations that come in the same envelope as acknowledgment of a donation.  Hey, if I had meant to include more I would have put it in the earlier envelope.

3.      Telephone solicitations, including some of the above universities.  If I donate annually, send me a request with notice of my last contribution.  Hearing from a current student doesn’t hit my heart strings, especially knowing that he/she is paying a five-figure tuition to be on the telephone.

4.      Assuming that because I donated in memory of someone who has passed away, I have a personal interest in your charity.

5.      Assuming that I delay my contributions until the end of the year because of tax reasons.

6.      Assuming that I am ignorant of how to contribute through a will.  If you haven’t got my loyalty by the time I am ready to die, you’re unlikely to convince me on my deathbed.  I probably have other things on my mind.

Getting back to #Giving Tuesday: it seems to be working.  This year’s total was $45 million, up from $28 million last year.  And, as the hashtag implies, most of it came online.  The biggest move in online giving this year was the Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS, which raised some $21.7 million dollars in a viral social media summer splurge.  This sum is all the more remarkable because it came from small donations.

There was an interesting article in the WSJ recently discussing how charities are using data to increase donations.  Related articles discussed big-money philanthropy and the fact that in the US, individuals make up almost 75% of the donations to charities.  These point out the fact that most donors are interested in such things as how charities rank in overhead expenses, a number that the Red Cross backpedaled this year.  If you are interested in such things a good site is www.charitynavigator.com .

It would seem that most donors don’t take the trouble to check out how much of their donation gets to those in need.  Instead, the study showed, they assume that big-money givers do that research and, if they are mentioned in the solicitation, poorer individuals will follow.  Ironically, donations are less impacted by the economy than might be thought, belying the old joke about the man who apologizes to the beggar for a small donation because “times have been hard”. The beggar says, “Why should your problem be my problem?”

Why, indeed?

In my next post I will share why, all of a sudden I had a memory of some seventy years of thinking about braids.  I hope you will be interested to join me.

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